Nobel season is almost upon us again, with the scientists behind the discovery of gravitational waves up for a prize – but have you ever wondered what the first-ever Nobel prize was handed out for?
Back in 1901, the King of Sweden gave Wilhelm Röntgen the inaugural Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of a mysterious new type of radiation.
As the Vikki Academy video above explains, at the end of the 19th century, society’s obsession with magic had been replaced by all things electric and magnetic.
One of the most intriguing new concepts at the time was the cathode ray, which formed beams of electrons in a vacuum that could be diverted by magnets.
Fascinated with these cool little beams of electricity, Röntgen decided to mess around with them further, and put a vacuum tube containing cathode rays in a sealed box and turned out the light to see what would happen. To his surprise, some kind of energy was escaping his box and lighting up a fluorescent cardboard screen behind it. Turns out, he’d found a brand new type of radiation – one that could pass through objects.
Having no idea what these rays were at the time, he called them – you guessed it – X-rays. Source: What did the first ever Nobel prize winner discover?