Wilhelm C. Roentgen discovered x-rays November 8, 1895.  Becquerel’s observations on radioactivity and related work by the Curie’s arose a short time later as a result of Roentgen’s work.  The very first Nobel prize in physics was awarded to Prof. Roentgen in 1901.   In his younger years he did not stand out as an exceptional student which makes reading about his life particularly inspiring.

That original experiment in 1895 was conducted using an unshielded cathode ray tube with low radiation output compared to equipment used today.  And from that small spark of insight, the discovery of a “New Kind of Ray”, we now have many medical imaging modalities, radiation treatments, industrial applications, art work and testing of art (even mummies) in museums, food testing machines, computers (quality control testing of the components), security systems at airports and prisons, entire trucks exposed at customs points of entry, and more.  It is a part of virtually every aspect of our lives.   Our life expectancy has virtually doubled since the discovery of x-rays with radiation playing a major role in that increase in our livespan.   And for those hundreds of thousands of people who work directly with radiation devices it has provided our jobs, lifestyle, and everything we buy with our earnings.  We owe a great deal to the recognition of that new kind of ray by professor Roentgen.  Others before him observed the effects, but he alone did the painstaking experiments that identified them as unique.  Louis Pasteur was right.  “Chance favors the prepared mind”.   His discovery was not an “accident”.

Here is a trivia question for you:  What day of the week was November 8, 1895?

The answer is buried elsewhere on this website . . . . . .