Without modern medical technology, life would remain vague. The invention of the X-rays in 1895 was an eye opener to the history of medicine. It was made possible to examine the internal body without having a cut into the flesh. Dr.Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen deserves the credentials for making this possible.
Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen was born to Friedrich Conrad R?ntgen,?Charlotta Contanza Frowein at Lennep, Germany on 27th March 1845. He received his early education at the Institute of Martinus Herman van Doorn, and in 1861 he attended the Utrecht Technical School. Unfortunately he was expelled unfairly from his school after being accused of a prank another student had committed in 1863. He never completed high school and was kicked out of college. Despite these lacks of credentials, he not only went on to become a renowned physicist but he also received offers for teaching in many universities as a lecturer.
He was interested in building mechanical objects. This passion in him made him to study more in the field of Physics. He earned a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the University of Zurich. Amiable and courteous by nature, he always understood the views and difficulties of others. He was always shy of having an assistant, and preferred to work alone. Much of the apparatus he used was built by him with great ingenuity and experimental skill.
Discovery of X-rays
Roentgen discovered his most famous invention?purely by chance. For decades, he had been studying the effects of electrical charge on the response and appearance of vacuum tubes.
- He conducted a series of experiments in 1895 in which he connected a type of vacuum tube to a generator.
- Roentgen covered the glass tube with a black paper and placed in a completely dark room. The filament inside the tube produced the cathode rays.
- He noticed the glow of crystals on a table near his tube which was illuminated by a fluorescent green coloured light generated by a material located a few feet away from the tube.
- The glowing tube left an impression on a piece of cardboard in the form of a giant ?A? written by a student.
- He was astonished at this emission and imitated this process against a deck of cards and a book. He was able to clearly see them through the tube and the screen.
- He later realised that a number of objects could be penetrated by these rays. He tested the same with a photographic plate instead of a screen, and an image was captured. He concluded that a new type of ray was being emitted from the tube.
- A week later, he took an X-ray photograph of his wife’s hand which clearly revealed her wedding ring and her bones.
Roentgen called it “X” to indicate it was an unknown type of radiation. Roentgen?s colleagues suggested calling them as Roentgen rays but he named it as the X-rays. It is interesting that the first use of X-rays were for an industrial (not medical) application, as Roentgen produced a radiograph of a set of weights in a box to show his colleagues. Thus a bizarre change has influenced the world of medical sciences where the internal structures of a body could be made visible without a surgery.
Numerous honours were showered upon him. In several cities, streets were named after him. Some of the notable awards won by him were,
- Nobel Prize in Physics,
- Elliott Cresson Medal,
- Matteucci Medal,
- Rumford Medal
Applications of X-rays
- X-rays play a dominant role in the field of medicines. They are widely used in radiography, fluoroscopy, CT Scans, micro-radiography, etc.
- X rays are also used with computers in CAT (computerized axial tomography) scans to produce cross-sectional images of the inside of the body.
- Another use of radiography is in the examination and analysis of paintings, where studies can reveal such details as the age of a painting and underlying brushstroke techniques that help to identify or verify the artist.
- In agricultural industries the irradiation of some foods with X-rays and gamma rays is used to inhibit selectively the growth of bacteria
- X-rays are a powerful diagnostic tool for revealing the structure and composition of materials.
- Because water is relatively transparent in the soft X-ray region, these microscopes are ideal for studying biological materials in an aqueous environment.
- X-ray crystallography allow for the determination of crystal structures in inorganic, organic, and biological materials.
- X-rays help in food safety and quality improvement through metal detection