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Radio Shows | The Discovery of the X-Ray | mp3wmawav

Today, we will explore The Discovery of the X-Ray.

Imagine the world before 1895, a world with very few of the technologies we consider essential today: the computer, airplane, televisions. and consider this: No X-Ray machines.

Before x ray machines were invented, broken bones, tumors and the location of bullets were all diagnosed by physical examination and a doctor's best guess. Patients paid the price of these approaches.

Then on November 8th of 1895, a German physics professor Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen made a remarkable discovery. He took a tube similar to fluorescent light bulbs, removed all the air and filled it with a special gas.

When he passed a high electric voltage through it, the tube gave off a fluorescent glow. Roentgen then covered the tube with heavy black paper and once again passed electricity through it and noticed a barium coated screen across the lab began to glow.

He quickly realized his tube was emitting an "invisible light" or ray, and this ray could pass through the heavy paper covering the tube. He quickly did more experiments and discovered these new rays could pass through most substances and would cast shadows of solid objects on pieces of film.

He named the new ray X-ray, because in mathematics "X" is used to indicated the unknown quantity. And within a month Roentgen gave his report to the Wurzburg Physical-Medical Society and to physicist friends across Europe.

By January 1896 the world was gripped by "X-ray mania," and Roentgen was proclaimed the discoverer of a medical miracle. Within a year, X-rays were being used in diagnosis and therapy and were an established part of medicine.

Roentgen did not seek patents on his discovery of X rays, but was the recipient of the first Nobel Prize in physics in 1901.

Today we take X-Rays and more sophisticated imaging systems all for granted. Some of the pioneers in the field died working with x rays not knowing they were harmful.

But their sacrifice some 111 years ago created a technology that is vital to our health today.

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For more information...

A detailed history of the discovery of the X-Ray and the events leading up to that momentous event are provided at Yale New Haven Teacher's Institute.
For more information...

More information can be obtained from about.com on their collection of information about inventors here.

For an understandable and entertaining look at how X-Rays work, go here.

For a more in depth history along with interesting images of the tubes used by Conrad Roentgen go here.


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