Bookmark and Share

Pure but poor

In the United States the news of Röntgen's discovery of X-rays was announced by the New York Times on January 16, 1896. Thomas A. Edison, immediately recognized the economic possibilities and began exploiting X-rays. Edison said "Prof Röntgen probably will not draw one dollar profit from his discovery. He belongs to those pure scientists who study for pleasure and love to delve into the secrets of nature. After they have discovered something wonderful someone else must come to look at it from a commercial point of view. This will also be the case with Röntgen's discovery. One must see how to use it and how to profit by it financially." Indeed, while Edison demonstrated a wealth of uses for X-ray technology, Röntgen could not pursue his own studies in later years because he could not afford an x-ray tube. While medical science made great strides with X-ray studies, the nonmedical scientific community at first did not. It was not until 1912 that Max von Laue demonstrated that crystals diffract X-rays.

Maureen M. Julian, VA Polytech Inst and State U.,
in Chemical Heritage Magazine