Field of Science

Film Studies

In the late 19th century, Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the x-ray. X-rays are light, with very short wavelengths (on the order of 10s of Angstroms) relative to visible light (on the order of 1000s of Angstroms). Roentgen was experimenting with various materials to see what might be opaque to the new rays by placing samples in front of a barium platinocyanide screen which fluoresced on contact with x-rays. When putting a block of lead in the way, he noticed the skeletal image of his own hand on the screen. Roentgen published a paper less than 2 months later detailing his discoveries, but it turns out that the first x-ray image had actually been made two years before at the University of Pennsylvania, and filed away, its significance unrecognized by the researchers there.

The new rays were all the rage - as an article in McClure's magazine shows. Many of the images in the article were produced at the Urania in Berlin by Spies. The Urania was a scientific theater, where spectators paid to see new scientific discoveries (and other interesting phenomena) demonstrated and explained. The x-ray at the top of this post is of Professor Spies' wife's hand.

Science as performance -- a new funding model? Set up the lab, train a guide and sell tickets to the latest new discovery.

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