First X-ray demo: Jan. 13, 1896

German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen himself couldn't believe what he had discovered in his lab a few months earlier--a form of radiation that caused a flourescent effect allowing him to see images through opaque surfaces. He had lived in the lab for weeks, continuously recreating the effect to make sure he wasn't mistaken and finally, a few days before Christmas, 1895, he had made the first X-ray image--a photo revealing the skeleton of his wife Bertha's left hand. (She had exclaimed, "I have seen my death.")

On this day, Germany's emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II gets his first look at X-rays, then awards the scientist the Prussian Order of the Crown. Three days later the _New York Times, _writing aboutRoentgen's discovery, predicts the "transformation of modern surgery by enabling the surgeon to detect the presence of foreign bodies."   In 1901, Roentgen is awarded the very first Nobel Prize in Physics, but when he dies in 1923, he is bankrupt, wiped out by the hyperinflation in Germany after World War I.

For many years, X-rays were known as Roentgen rays and while that term has faded, the roentgen remains a radiological unit of measure.