The X-Ray Was Invented 124 Years Ago This Month: See the First One

The discovery of the x-ray was truly a life-changing invention that would alter the practice of medicine. Take a look at what the very first x-ray image looked like.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by The Art Archive/Shutterstock (5850781ic) First x-ray of human hand taken by W C Rontgen, December 22, 1895 Art (Med Hist) - variousThe Art Archive/Shutterstock

Today, x-rays are very commonplace, but when they were first discovered, it was an amazing step forward in the advancement of medical technology. They allowed doctors and scientists to study the inside of the human body without cutting into it. The first x-ray ever taken was captured in 1895. It doesn’t look as clear or realistic as x-rays do today, but it’s interesting to see where it all started. New amazing discoveries are still being invented today—these are the coolest scientific discoveries of last year.

The first person to discover how to capture images with electromagnetic radiation was Wilhelm Röntgen, a Professor of Physics in Würzburg, Bavaria. He was exploring the path of electrical rays passing from an induction coil through a partially evacuated glass tube. He soon realized that objects, including the human body, could be penetrated by the rays. The first x-ray he ever took was of his wife’s hand, pictured here. You can see her wedding band on her ring finger.

The year after Röntgen’s discovery, in 1896, an x-ray department had been set up at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. There, doctors produced the first x-rays of kidney stones, an x-ray of a penny in a child’s throat, and an image of a frog’s legs in motion. Also, within the same year, Dr. John Hall-Edwards became the first doctor to make a diagnosis with an x-ray. He diagnosed a needle implanted into a woman’s hand. From there the new technology went on to help treat soldiers fighting in the war and it even appeared as an act in theatrical shows.

It was eventually discovered that continuous exposure to x-rays is harmful to humans, but in moderation, it is still used to help identify ailments and find cures. These discoveries also changed the world—and they were invented by accident.

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Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.