Time - 100 Photographs - The Most Influential Images of All Time - USA (2019)

(Antfer) #1


THE HAND OF MRS. WILHELM RÖNTGEN by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen

There’s no way of knowing how many pictures were
taken of Anna Bertha Röntgen, and most are surely lost
to history. But one of them isn’t: it is of her hand—more
precisely, the bones in her hand—an image captured by
her husband Wilhelm when he took the first medical x-
ray in 1895. Wilhelm had spent weeks working in his lab,
experimenting with a cathode tube that emitted different
frequencies of electromagnetic energy. Some, he noticed,
appeared to penetrate solid objects and expose sheets of
photographic paper. He used the strange rays, which he
aptly dubbed x-rays, to create shadowy images of the inside

of various inanimate objects and then, finally, one very ani-
mate one. The picture of Anna’s hand created a sensation,
and the discovery of x-rays won Wilhelm the first Nobel
Prize ever granted for physics in 1901. His breakthrough
quickly went into use around the world, revolutionizing
the diagnosis and treatment of injuries and illnesses that
had always been hidden from sight. Anna, however, was
never taken with the picture. “I have seen my death,” she
said when she first glimpsed it. For many millions of other
people, it has meant life.
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