Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen

(March 27, 1845 – February 10, 1923)

Wilhelm C. Rontgen was a German physicist, who, on Nov 8, 1895 produced and detected electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range today known as X-rays or Rontgen rays – an achievement that earned him the first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1901.

In honor of his accomplishments, IUPAC named element 111, Roentgenium  a very radioactive element with multiple unstable isotopes, after him.

In 1865, he tried to attend the University of Utrecht without having the necessary credentials required for a regular student. Upon hearing that he could enter the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich (today known as ETH Zurich), he passed its examinations, and began studies there as a student of mechanical engineering. In 1869, he graduated with a PhD from the University of Zurich; once there, he became a favorite student of Professor August Kundt, whom he followed to the University of Strassburg in 1873.

-Wilhelm was a professor at the Academy of Agriculture at Hohenheim, Wurttemberg in 1875.

-A professor of physics at Strassburg in 1876.

-He was appointed the chair of physics at the University of Giessen in 1879.

-He was appointed the chair of physics at the University of Wurzburg in 1888.

-He was appointed the chair of physics at the University of Munich in 1900 by special request of the Bavarian government.

-He planned to join family in Iowa, US at one time to attend Columbia University in NYC, and had even bought transatlantic tickets, but the outbreak of WWI changed his plans and he remained in Munich for the rest of his career.

After he discovered the X-ray, he took the very first picture using X-rays of his wife’s hand, Anna Bertha. When she saw her skeleton she exclaimed “I have seen my death!”

Anna Bertha Roentgen and the X-ray of her hand:


-Rontgen did not take patents out on his discoveries, and donated the money of his Nobel prize to the University of Wurzburg. With the inflation following WWI, Rontgen feel into bankruptcy later in life, spending his final years at his country home at Weilheim, near Munich. In keeping with his will, all his personal and scientific correspondence were destroyed upon his death.

The following awards were awarded to Rontgen:

-1896: Rumford Medal

-1896: Matteucci Medal

-1897: Elliott Cresson Medal

-1901: Nobel Prize for Physics

-2004: IUPAC named element number 111 Roentgenuem (Rg) in his honor.