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X-ray

The meaning of «x-ray»

An X-ray, or, much less commonly, X-radiation, is a penetrating form of high-energy electromagnetic radiation. Most X-rays have a wavelength ranging from 10 picometers to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz (30×1015 Hz to 30×1018 Hz) and energies in the range 124 eV to 124 keV. X-ray wavelengths are shorter than those of UV rays and typically longer than those of gamma rays. In many languages, X-radiation is referred to as Röntgen radiation, after the German scientist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, who discovered it on November 8, 1895.[1] He named it X-radiation to signify an unknown type of radiation.[2] Spellings of X-ray(s) in English include the variants x-ray(s), xray(s), and X ray(s).[3]

Before their discovery in 1895, X-rays were just a type of unidentified radiation emanating from experimental discharge tubes. They were noticed by scientists investigating cathode rays produced by such tubes, which are energetic electron beams that were first observed in 1869. Many of the early Crookes tubes (invented around 1875) undoubtedly radiated X-rays, because early researchers noticed effects that were attributable to them, as detailed below. Crookes tubes created free electrons by ionization of the residual air in the tube by a high DC voltage of anywhere between a few kilovolts and 100 kV. This voltage accelerated the electrons coming from the cathode to a high enough velocity that they created X-rays when they struck the anode or the glass wall of the tube.[4]

The earliest experimenter thought to have (unknowingly) produced X-rays was actuary William Morgan. In 1785 he presented a paper to the Royal Society of London describing the effects of passing electrical currents through a partially evacuated glass tube, producing a glow created by X-rays.[5][6] This work was further explored by Humphry Davy and his assistant Michael Faraday.

When Stanford University physics professor Fernando Sanford created his "electric photography" he also unknowingly generated and detected X-rays. From 1886 to 1888 he had studied in the Hermann Helmholtz laboratory in Berlin, where he became familiar with the cathode rays generated in vacuum tubes when a voltage was applied across separate electrodes, as previously studied by Heinrich Hertz and Philipp Lenard. His letter of January 6, 1893 (describing his discovery as "electric photography") to The Physical Review was duly published and an article entitled Without Lens or Light, Photographs Taken With Plate and Object in Darkness appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.[7]

Starting in 1888, Philipp Lenard conducted experiments to see whether cathode rays could pass out of the Crookes tube into the air. He built a Crookes tube with a "window" at the end made of thin aluminum, facing the cathode so the cathode rays would strike it (later called a "Lenard tube"). He found that something came through, that would expose photographic plates and cause fluorescence. He measured the penetrating power of these rays through various materials. It has been suggested that at least some of these "Lenard rays" were actually X-rays.[8]

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