Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
Born: 27 March 1845, Lennep (now Remscheid), Prussia (now Germany)
Died: 10 February 1923, Munich, Germany
Affiliation at the time of the award: Munich University, Munich, Germany
Prize motivation: "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays subsequently named after him"
Field: atomic physics, x-rays
Prize share: 1/1
Wilhelm Röntgen was born in Lennep, Germany, but grew up in Holland. Röntgen earned his undergraduate degree at the ETH Zurich university and received his doctorate in physics from the University of Zurich. Following his studies, Wilhelm Röntgen worked at universities in Strasbourg, Giessen, and Würzburg, where he carried out his Nobel Prize-awarded research. In 1900 Röntgen transferred to the University of Munich, where he remained for the rest of his life, despite plans to emigrate to the US. Wilhelm Röntgen married Bertha Ludwig in 1872. The couple later adopted the daughter of Bertha's brother.
In 1895, Wilhelm Röntgen studied cathode radiation, which occurs when an electrical charge is applied to two metal plates inside a glass tube filled with rarefied gas. Although the apparatus was screened off, he noticed a faint light on light-sensitive screens that happened to be close by. Further investigations revealed that this was caused by a penetrating, previously unknown type of radiation. X-ray radiation became a powerful tool for physical experiments and examining the body's interior.