The Odd Discovery of the X-Ray


On this day in history, 1895, German physics professor Wilhelm Rontgen stumbled on X-rays while experimenting with Lenard and Crookes tubes and began studying them. He wrote an initial report, “On a new kind of ray: A preliminary communication,” and on December 28, 1895 submitted it to the Wurzburg’s Physical-Medical Society Journal. This was the first paper written on X-rays. Rontgen referred to the radiation as “X,” to indicate that it was an unknown type of radiation. The name stuck.

After writing his first paper, Rontgen threw himself into investigating these unknown rays systematically. It was only after two more months of study that he made his paper public.

Rontgen discovered its medical use when he made a picture of his wife’s hand on a photographic plate formed due to X-rays. The photograph of his wife’s hand was the first photograph of a human body part using X-rays. When she saw the picture, she said, “I have seen my death.”

So a physicist made a great discovery 122 years ago today. By mistake.

A lot of things have happened “by mistake” through the years. But here’s the thing. With God, there really are no mistakes. All that happens is for his purpose and glory. Even the bad stuff in your life can be turned for good. What God allows, God redeems.


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