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May 31, 1965


JAMA. 1965;192(9):778. doi:10.1001/jama.1965.03080220042014

A recent exchange in the LETTERS section (JAMA191:865-866 [March 8]) resulted in the correspondence published on p 787 of this issue. Who did what first is a topic swept along for centuries on a torrent of printer's ink. The present disagreement is merely the most recent of a long list.

A common reason for conflict is duplication of discovery. Merton,1 after a preliminary search, records 264 multiples. Roentgen's discovery of x-rays in 1896 was followed by a spate of claims to prior discovery. Quite accidentally, several investigators had made "x-rays" prior to Roentgen's reported observations. Goodspeed,2 at the University of Pennsylvania, reported in February 1896 that six years previously in his laboratory, photographs were made similar to those described by Roentgen. Goodspeed, however, did not attempt to claim the priority and, indeed, emphasized that he had made no discovery. His photographs had been put aside, unexplained,

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