It’s funny the ways in which so many breakthroughs in science and technology occur as a result of serendipity. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin is probably the most famous example of this discovery via serendipity ‘method’.
Another instance of an unplanned scientific breakthrough that changed the world was Wilhelm Rontgen’s discovery of how to make x-ray images. As this newspaper obituary about Rontgen reports, Rontgen was actually carrying out an experiment on ‘the passage of electricity through gases’, when he happened to notice that some crystals of platino-cyanide of barium had started to glow.
Rontgen then proceeded to photograph his wife’s hand with his new imaging technique, and the world saw its first x-ray image (and also Mrs. Rontgen’s metacarpal bones!) on 22 December 1895.
The Archive contains cores of stories about Rontgen. Just do a quick search for his surname to find these fascinating stories.
Source: ‘Nottingham Evening Post’ – Monday 12 February 1923
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