RNTGEN, Wilhelm Conrad (1845-1923). Ueber eine neue Art von Strahlen (Vorlufige Mittheiling), Ende 1895. - Eine neue Art von Strahlen. II. Mittheilung, 1896. Offprints from the Sitzungsberichte der Wrzburger Physik.-medic. Gesellschaft, 1895 [no. 9], and 1896, [nos. 1-2]. Wrzburg: Verlag und Druck der Stahelsc'schen K. Hof.-und Universitts- Buch und Kunsthandlung, 1895-1896.
2 volumes, 8o (226 x 150 mm). Part I: 6 leaves, pp. -10, last leaf blank; part II: 6 leaves, pp. -9  (including 3 pages publisher's ads at end). Drop titles to part 1, part 2 with separate title-leaf. Original printed wrappers, yellow (part I) and orange (part II) (skilfully reinforced along fold on part 2, small chip on front wrapper of part 1, minor soiling); cloth folding case.
FIRST EDITION, OFFPRINT ISSUE, OF THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DISCOVERY OF THE X-RAY. Although it had certainly manifested itself to earlier experimentors, the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum known in Germany as Rntgenstrahlen was not taken note of, i.e., "discovered", until 1895. In the autumn of that year Rntgen, an unassuming physics professor at Wrzburg, undertook a series of experiments with William Crookes' version of the "Geisslertube," a form of vacuum tube sealed at the ends with platinum terminals to permit the passage of an electric current through the tube. "Hertz and Lenard had published on the penetrating powers of cathode rays (electrons) and Rntgen thought that there were unsolved problems worth investigation... As a preliminary to viewing the cathode rays on a fluorescent screen, Rntgen completely covered his discharge tube with a black card, and then chanced to notice that such a screen lying on a bench some distance away was glowing brightly. Although others had operated Crookes tubes in laboratories for over thirty years, it was Rntgen who found that X rays are emitted by the part of the glass wall of the tube that is opposite the cathode and that receives the beam of cathode rays. He spent six weeks in absolute concentration, repeating and extending his observations on the properties of the new rays. He found that they travel in straight lines, cannot be refracted or reflected, are not deviated by a magnet, and can travel about two meters in air. He soon discovered the penetrating properties of the rays... The apparent magical nature of the new rays was something of a shock even to Rntgen... On 22 December he brought his wife into the laboratory and made an X-ray photograph of her hand. It was no doubt the possibility of seeing living skeletons, thus pandering to man's morbid curiosity, that contributed to the peculiarly rapid worldwide dissemination of the discovery" (DSB).
This quick dissemination of a scientific discovery was in fact made possible by the custom of sending offprints of articles published in obscure scholarly journals to distant colleagues. To ensure priority for his discovery, Rntgen immediately submitted a "preliminary" paper on the "new kind of rays," which he had dubbed "X rays" because of his uncertainty as to their origin, to the editors of the Physical and Medical Society of Wrzburg in the last week of December, 1895. The present offprint was printed at the same time as the journal number, which "probably was not actually published until January 1896" (Grolier Medicine): "By 1 January 1896 Rntgen was able to send reprints [i.e., offprints] and, in some cases, photographs to his friends and colleagues... The Wiener Press carried the story of the discovery on 5 January, and on the following day the news broke around the world. The world's response was remarkably swift, both the general public and the scientific community reacting in their characteristic ways. For the former, the apparent magic caught the imagination, and for the latter, Crookes tubes and generators were promptly sold in large numbers" (DSB). Four later issues of the offprint were published in 1896, reimposed to allow for a title-page at the beginning instead of a final blank. Rntgen's second paper, relating his latest discoveries and describing a scale for measuring X-ray intensity, appeared in March 1896 (the journal issue included a plate showing an X-ray of the hand of Rntgen's colleague the anatomist Albert von Klliker, not included in the offprint); a third paper was published in 1897. Foremost among Rntgen's numerous awards was the first Nobel Prize for physics, received in 1901, the prize money for which he donated to the University of Wrzburg for the furtherance of scientific studies. Dibner, Heralds of Science 162; Garrison-Morton-Norman 2683; Grolier/Horblit 90; Grolier Medicine 83A-B; Norman 1841-1842; PMM 380 (the last four references, excepting Norman, are to the periodical issue). (2)