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September 1995

One Hundred Years of X-rays

Author Affiliations

Boston, Mass

Arch Ophthalmol. 1995;113(9):1107. doi:10.1001/archopht.1995.01100090029017

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We sometimes hear of seminal contributions to medical science, but nearly all of them pale when compared with that of physicist Wilhelm Konrad Röntgen. In a darkened laboratory on the evening of November 8, 1895, he chanced to notice that a sheet of paper treated with crystals of barium platinocyanide, which he had failed to store following an earlier experiment, glowed when exposed to a cathode tube. The closer the paper was to the tube, the brighter the glow. He also observed that the glow persisted even if he placed a thick book between the tube and the paper. In a later experiment he interposed his hand between the tube and a photographic plate and was surprised to find not an outline of his hand but rather an image of the bones of his hand and a silhouette of his wedding ring. Thus had Röntgen made the greatest technical innovation

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