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5 unbelievable things about X-rays you can't miss

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Yeah, you already know what this article is about because you’ve seen many X-ray tests being conducted, some of them on yourself. Wrong! This article is going to show you a few mind-blowing hints you probably don't know regarding this medical procedure .

Before we get started, it’s good to mention that the discovery and further development of this technology gave birth to an entire specialty in modern medicine, radiology. X-rays are the grandfather of the modern CT-scan and MRI.

Are you ready for a radiology test? Let’s do it!

See also:20 grandes cientificos alemanes que debemos recordar

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#1 X-rays were discovered by accident

In 1895, the German professor of physics Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen was working on the effects of cathode rays, which basically consisted on passing electricity through a tube containing low-pressure gasses. He noticed certain rays illuminating the gasses in the total darkness of the experiment room. Then, he decided to use photographic plates to capture the image as the rays went through solid objects. He wasn’t looking for a medical advancement at all. But his discovery gave him the first Nobel Prize ever awarded and changed the course of medical diagnosis forever.

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#2 Why are they called X-rays?

Roentgen didn’t quite understand the nature of this electromagnetic radiation. Actually, nobody had worked, documented, or named these rays in the scientific community at that point; so, he decided to call the rays X, since they were completely unknown.

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#3 She saw her death

The German scientist was perplexed as he continued experimenting with the rays. He realized his invention could be used to see the bones of the human skeleton just the same way he did with other solid objects. He took images of his wife's hand, which was the first X-ray image ever taken on a human. She freaked out when she saw the image and said, "I saw my death!" That’s an equivalent to Archimedes’ famous Eureka!

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#4 They had no clue it can kill

In the first few decades after the discovery, scientists didn’t know unprotected or excessive exposure to the rays can be lethal. This is understandable because nobody had used them before; there wasn’t any scientific reference to this regard. So, subjects participating in the trails developed serious injuries ending in cancer and death. The standard procedure was amputating the affected area, ignoring that the cancer would later strike again. In fact, even some scientists believed that X-rays could strengthen the body during that period of time. Sometimes, ignorance is not bliss.

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#5 The original Roentgen notes were lost forever

After Roentgen’s death in 1923, his laboratory caught fire and the original notes taken during the discovery process were lost forever. Most of what historians know about that process comes from an article he published six weeks after the discovery in December 1895. This was the first of more than 100 papers scientists wrote on the subject within the first year after the discovery.

Wilhem Conrad Roentgen, like other scientists back then, refused to take patent of the invention leaving it available to be used at large scale in medicine.