Nobel Prize-winning physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was born on this day in 1845. He and his wife normally enjoyed eating together, and couple always savored the first asparagus of the season. But for several days during the autumn of 1895, their mealtime harmony was disturbed.
It all began when Röntgen experimented with the flow of an electric current in a vacuum tube. The physicist became thoroughly frustrated because he couldn’t explain why a nearby piece of paper that was coated with barium platinocyanide became fluorescent while the current flowed.
For several days after his experiment, Röntgen arrived at the dinner table in a sour mood. His wife recalled that he ate little food, had virtually nothing to say, and gave no reply when asked what was wrong. On these nights, he would leave the dinner table and return to his laboratory.
Only after repeating his experiment several times did Röntgen finally absorb the magnitude of his discovery: he had produced electromagnetic radiation.