Discovering the X-Ray

The discovery of the x-ray was vital to allow doctors to look in people’s bodies. Without x-rays, it would be challenging for doctors to provide their patients with the best care.

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, a German physicist, was playing with a cathode ray tube when he discovered a way to see bones. He observed how a piece of paper covered in a chemical called barium platino cyanide would glow when he turned the tube on.

After using the tube to view the bones in his wife's fingers, Röntgen realized he could see soft tissue, too. To test this theory further, he made his patients drink a “milkshake” that contained barium. While the patients drank, Röntgen would x-ray them and could see the barium traveling down their digestive tracts.

Interested in Röntgen's experiment, Sir Joseph John Thomson and Ernest Rutherford of England wanted to study the x-ray, too. They eventually found that cathode rays were actually only lines of electrons, or charged particles. This finding allowed Thomson, in 1897, to present his first atomic theory of matter.

Since their discovery, x-rays have helped millions of people across the world.

[Source: Simpson Street Free Press Archives ]