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Wilhelm Röntgen

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (March 27 1845 - February 10 1923) was a German physicist, of the University of Würzburg, who, on November 8, 1895, produced wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation that are now known as x-rays. The machine which Röntgen built to emit these rays, was the x-ray machine.

While experimenting with electricity on November 8, 1895 Röntgen discovered x-rays. Two months later on January 5, 1896, an Austrian newspaper reported Röntgen's discovery of a new type of radiation. Röntgen was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine from University of Würzburg after his discovery of x-rays.

For this discovery he was awarded the very first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901. The award was officially, "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays subsequently named after him." Röntgen donated the monetary reward from the prize to his university. Like Pierre Curie would do several years later he refused to take out any patents related to his discovery on moral grounds. He did not even want the rays to be named after him.


He was born in Lennep, Germany, to a clothmaker. His family moved to the Netherlands when he was three years old. He received his early education at the Institute of Martinus Herman van Doorn. He later attended Utrecht Technical School, from which he was expelled for producing a caricature of one of the teachers, a "crime" he claimed not to have committed.

In 1865, he attended the University of Utrecht. He then began to attend the Polytechnic at Zurich to study mechanical engineering. In 1869, he graduated with a Ph.D from the University of Zurich.


In 1874 he became a lecturer at Strasbourg University and in 1875 became a professor at the Academy of Agriculture at Hohenheim, Württemberg. In 1876, he returned to Strasbourg as a professor of Physics and in 1879, he became the Chair of the physics department at the University of Giessen. In 1888, he became the physics chair at the University of Würzburg and in 1900 he became the physics chair at the University of Munich, by special request of the Bavarian government. Here he would remain.

See also: Hertz, Heinrich Rudolf

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