The full importance of Young's studies of light might perhaps have gained earlier recognition had it not chanced that, at the time when they were made, the attention of the philosophic world was turned with the fixity and fascination of a hypnotic stare upon another field, which for a time brooked no rival. How could the old, familiar phenomenon, light, interest any one when the new agent, galvanism, was in view? As well ask one to fix attention on a star while a meteorite blazes across the sky.

Galvanism was so called precisely as the Roentgen ray was christened at a later day—as a safe means of begging the question as to the nature of the phenomena involved. The initial fact in galvanism was the discovery of Luigi Galvani (1737-1798), a physician of Bologna, in 1791, that by bringing metals in contact with the nerves of a frog's leg violent muscular contractions are produced. As this simple little experiment led eventually to the discovery of galvanic electricity and the invention of the galvanic battery, it may be regarded as the beginning of modern electricity.

The story is told that Galvani was led to his discovery while preparing frogs' legs to make a broth for his invalid wife. As the story runs, he had removed the skins from several frogs' legs, when, happening to touch the exposed muscles with a scalpel which had lain in close proximity to an electrical machine, violent muscular action was produced. Impressed with this phenomenon, he began a series of experiments which finally resulted in his great discovery. But be this story authentic or not, it is certain that Galvani experimented for several years upon frogs' legs suspended upon wires and hooks, until he finally constructed his arc of two different metals, which, when arranged so that one was placed in contact with a nerve and the other with a muscle, produced violent contractions.

These two pieces of metal form the basic principle of the modern galvanic battery, and led directly to Alessandro Volta's invention of his "voltaic pile," the immediate ancestor of the modern galvanic battery. Volta's experiments were carried on at the same time as those of Galvani, and his invention of his pile followed close upon Galvani's discovery of the new form of electricity. From these facts the new form of electricity was sometimes called "galvanic" and sometimes "voltaic" electricity, but in recent years the term "galvanism" and "galvanic current" have almost entirely supplanted the use of the term voltaic.

It was Volta who made the report of Galvani's wonderful discovery to the Royal Society of London, read on January 31, 1793. In this letter he describes Galvani's experiments in detail and refers to them in glowing terms of praise. He calls it one of the "most beautiful and important discoveries," and regarded it as the germ or foundation upon which other discoveries were to be made. The prediction proved entirely correct, Volta himself being the chief discoverer.

Working along lines suggested by Galvani's discovery, Volta constructed an apparatus made up of a number of disks of two different kinds of metal, such as tin and silver, arranged alternately, a piece of some moist, porous substance, like paper or felt, being interposed between each pair of disks. With this "pile," as it was called, electricity was generated, and by linking together several such piles an electric battery could be formed.

This invention took the world by storm. Nothing like the enthusiasm it created in the philosophic world had been known since the invention of the Leyden jar, more than half a century before. Within a few weeks after Volta's announcement, batteries made according to his plan were being experimented with in every important laboratory in Europe.

As the century closed, half the philosophic world was speculating as to whether "galvanic influence" were a new imponderable, or only a form of electricity; and the other half was eagerly seeking to discover what new marvels the battery might reveal. The least imaginative man could see that here was an invention that would be epoch-making, but the most visionary dreamer could not even vaguely adumbrate the real measure of its importance.

It was evident at once that almost any form of galvanic battery, despite imperfections, was a more satisfactory instrument for generating electricity than the frictional machine hitherto in use, the advantage lying in the fact that the current from the galvanic battery could be controlled practically at will, and that the apparatus itself was inexpensive and required comparatively little attention. These advantages were soon made apparent by the practical application of the electric current in several fields.

It will be recalled that despite the energetic endeavors of such philosophers as Watson, Franklin, Galvani, and many others, the field of practical application of electricity was very limited at the close of the eighteenth century. The lightning-rod had come into general use, to be sure, and its value as an invention can hardly be overestimated. But while it was the result of extensive electrical discoveries, and is a most practical instrument, it can hardly be called one that puts electricity to practical use, but simply acts as a means of warding off the evil effects of a natural manifestation of electricity. The invention, however, had all the effects of a mechanism which turned electricity to practical account. But with the advent of the new kind of electricity the age of practical application began.


Volta's announcement of his pile was scarcely two months old when two Englishmen, Messrs. Nicholson and Carlisle, made the discovery that the current from the galvanic battery had a decided effect upon certain chemicals, among other things decomposing water into its elements, hydrogen and oxygen. On May 7, 1800, these investigators arranged the ends of two brass wires connected with the poles of a voltaic pile, composed of alternate silver and zinc plates, so that the current coming from the pile was discharged through a small quantity of "New River water." "A fine stream of minute bubbles immediately began to flow from the point of the lower wire in the tube which communicated with the silver," wrote Nicholson, "and the opposite point of the upper wire became tarnished, first deep orange and then black. . . ." The product of gas during two hours and a half was two- thirtieths of a cubic inch. "It was then mixed with an equal quantity of common air," continues Nicholson, "and exploded by the application of a lighted waxen thread."

This demonstration was the beginning of the very important science of electro-chemistry.

The importance of this discovery was at once recognized by Sir Humphry Davy, who began experimenting immediately in this new field. He constructed a series of batteries in various combinations, with which he attacked the "fixed alkalies," the composition of which was then unknown. Very shortly he was able to decompose potash into bright metallic globules, resembling quicksilver. This new substance he named "potassium." Then in rapid succession the elementary substances sodium, calcium, strontium, and magnesium were isolated.

It was soon discovered, also, that the new electricity, like the old, possessed heating power under certain conditions, even to the fusing of pieces of wire. This observation was probably first made by Frommsdorff, but it was elaborated by Davy, who constructed a battery of two thousand cells with which he produced a bright light from points of carbon—the prototype of the modern arc lamp. He made this demonstration before the members of the Royal Institution in 1810. But the practical utility of such a light for illuminating purposes was still a thing of the future. The expense of constructing and maintaining such an elaborate battery, and the rapid internal destruction of its plates, together with the constant polarization, rendered its use in practical illumination out of the question. It was not until another method of generating electricity was discovered that Davy's demonstration could be turned to practical account.

In Davy's own account of his experiment he says:

"When pieces of charcoal about an inch long and one-sixth of an inch in diameter were brought near each other (within the thirtieth or fortieth of an inch), a bright spark was produced, and more than half the volume of the charcoal became ignited to whiteness; and, by withdrawing the points from each other, a constant discharge took place through the heated air, in a space equal to at least four inches, producing a most brilliant ascending arch of light, broad and conical in form in the middle. When any substance was introduced into this arch, it instantly became ignited; platina melted as readily in it as wax in a common candle; quartz, the sapphire, magnesia, lime, all entered into fusion; fragments of diamond and points of charcoal and plumbago seemed to evaporate in it, even when the connection was made in the receiver of an air-pump; but there was no evidence of their having previously undergone fusion. When the communication between the points positively and negatively electrified was made in the air rarefied in the receiver of the air-pump, the distance at which the discharge took place increased as the exhaustion was made; and when the atmosphere in the vessel supported only one- fourth of an inch of mercury in the barometrical gauge, the sparks passed through a space of nearly half an inch; and, by withdrawing the points from each other, the discharge was made through six or seven inches, producing a most brilliant coruscation of purple light; the charcoal became intensely ignited, and some platina wire attached to it fused with brilliant scintillations and fell in large globules upon the plate of the pump. All the phenomena of chemical decomposition were produced with intense rapidity by this combination."[1]

But this experiment demonstrated another thing besides the possibility of producing electric light and chemical decomposition, this being the heating power capable of being produced by the electric current. Thus Davy's experiment of fusing substances laid the foundation of the modern electric furnaces, which are of paramount importance in several great commercial industries.

While some of the results obtained with Davy's batteries were practically as satisfactory as could be obtained with modern cell batteries, the batteries themselves were anything but satisfactory. They were expensive, required constant care and attention, and, what was more important from an experimental standpoint at least, were not constant in their action except for a very limited period of time, the current soon "running down." Numerous experimenters, therefore, set about devising a satisfactory battery, and when, in 1836, John Frederick Daniell produced the cell that bears his name, his invention was epoch- making in the history of electrical progress. The Royal Society considered it of sufficient importance to bestow the Copley medal upon the inventor, whose device is the direct parent of all modern galvanic cells. From the time of the advent of the Daniell cell experiments in electricity were rendered comparatively easy. In the mean while, however, another great discovery was made.


For many years there had been a growing suspicion, amounting in many instances to belief in the close relationship existing between electricity and magnetism. Before the winter of 1815, however, it was a belief that was surmised but not demonstrated. But in that year it occurred to Jean Christian Oersted, of Denmark, to pass a current of electricity through a wire held parallel with, but not quite touching, a suspended magnetic needle. The needle was instantly deflected and swung out of its position.

"The first experiments in connection with the subject which I am undertaking to explain," wrote Oersted, "were made during the course of lectures which I held last winter on electricity and magnetism. From those experiments it appeared that the magnetic needle could be moved from its position by means of a galvanic battery—one with a closed galvanic circuit. Since, however, those experiments were made with an apparatus of small power, I undertook to repeat and increase them with a large galvanic battery.

"Let us suppose that the two opposite ends of the galvanic apparatus are joined by a metal wire. This I shall always call the conductor for the sake of brevity. Place a rectilinear piece of this conductor in a horizontal position over an ordinary magnetic needle so that it is parallel to it. The magnetic needle will be set in motion and will deviate towards the west under that part of the conductor which comes from the negative pole of the galvanic battery. If the wire is not more than four-fifths of an inch distant from the middle of this needle, this deviation will be about forty-five degrees. At a greater distance the angle of deviation becomes less. Moreover, the deviation varies according to the strength of the battery. The conductor can be moved towards the east or west, so long as it remains parallel to the needle, without producing any other result than to make the deviation smaller.

"The conductor can consist of several combined wires or metal coils. The nature of the metal does not alter the result except, perhaps, to make it greater or less. We have used wires of platinum, gold, silver, brass, and iron, and coils of lead, tin, and quicksilver with the same result. If the conductor is interrupted by water, all effect is not cut off, unless the stretch of water is several inches long.

"The conductor works on the magnetic needle through glass, metals, wood, water, and resin, through clay vessels and through stone, for when we placed a glass plate, a metal plate, or a board between the conductor and the needle the effect was not cut off; even the three together seemed hardly to weaken the effect, and the same was the case with an earthen vessel, even when it was full of water. Our experiments also demonstrated that the said effects were not altered when we used a magnetic needle which was in a brass case full of water.

"When the conductor is placed in a horizontal plane under the magnetic needle all the effects we have described take place in precisely the same way, but in the opposite direction to what took place when the conductor was in a horizontal plane above the needle.

"If the conductor is moved in a horizontal plane so that it gradually makes ever-increasing angles with the magnetic meridian, the deviation of the magnetic needle from the magnetic meridian is increased when the wire is turned towards the place of the needle; it decreases, on the other hand, when it is turned away from that place.

"A needle of brass which is hung in the same way as the magnetic needle is not set in motion by the influence of the conductor. A needle of glass or rubber likewise remains static under similar experiments. Hence the electrical conductor affects only the magnetic parts of a substance. That the electrical current is not confined to the conducting wire, but is comparatively widely diffused in the surrounding space, is sufficiently demonstrated from the foregoing observations."[2]

The effect of Oersted's demonstration is almost incomprehensible. By it was shown the close relationship between magnetism and electricity. It showed the way to the establishment of the science of electrodynamics; although it was by the French savant Andre Marie Ampere (1775-1836) that the science was actually created, and this within the space of one week after hearing of Oersted's experiment in deflecting the needle. Ampere first received the news of Oersted's experiment on September 11, 1820, and on the 18th of the same month he announced to the Academy the fundamental principles of the science of electro-dynamics— seven days of rapid progress perhaps unequalled in the history of science.

Ampere's distinguished countryman, Arago, a few months later, gave the finishing touches to Oersted's and Ampere's discoveries, by demonstrating conclusively that electricity not only influenced a magnet, but actually produced magnetism under proper circumstances —a complemental fact most essential in practical mechanics

Some four years after Arago's discovery, Sturgeon made the first "electro-magnet" by winding a soft iron core with wire through which a current of electricity was passed. This study of electro-magnets was taken up by Professor Joseph Henry, of Albany, New York, who succeeded in making magnets of enormous lifting power by winding the iron core with several coils of wire. One of these magnets, excited by a single galvanic cell of less than half a square foot of surface, and containing only half a pint of dilute acids, sustained a weight of six hundred and fifty pounds.

Thus by Oersted's great discovery of the intimate relationship of magnetism and electricity, with further elaborations and discoveries by Ampere, Volta, and Henry, and with the invention of Daniell's cell, the way was laid for putting electricity to practical use. Soon followed the invention and perfection of the electro-magnetic telegraph and a host of other but little less important devices.


With these great discoveries and inventions at hand, electricity became no longer a toy or a "plaything for philosophers," but of enormous and growing importance commercially. Still, electricity generated by chemical action, even in a very perfect cell, was both feeble and expensive, and, withal, only applicable in a comparatively limited field. Another important scientific discovery was necessary before such things as electric traction and electric lighting on a large scale were to become possible; but that discovery was soon made by Sir Michael Faraday.

Faraday, the son of a blacksmith and a bookbinder by trade, had interested Sir Humphry Davy by his admirable notes on four of Davy's lectures, which he had been able to attend. Although advised by the great scientist to "stick to his bookbinding" rather than enter the field of science, Faraday became, at twenty-two years of age, Davy's assistant in the Royal Institution. There, for several years, he devoted all his spare hours to scientific investigations and experiments, perfecting himself in scientific technique.

A few years later he became interested, like all the scientists of the time, in Arago's experiment of rotating a copper disk underneath a suspended compass- needle. When this disk was rotated rapidly, the needle was deflected, or even rotated about its axis, in a manner quite inexplicable. Faraday at once conceived the idea that the cause of this rotation was due to electricity, induced in the revolving disk—not only conceived it, but put his belief in writing. For several years, however, he was unable to demonstrate the truth of his assumption, although he made repeated experiments to prove it. But in 1831 he began a series of experiments that established forever the fact of electro-magnetic induction.

In his famous paper, read before the Royal Society in 1831, Faraday describes the method by which he first demonstrated electro-magnetic induction, and then explained the phenomenon of Arago's revolving disk.

"About twenty-six feet of copper wire, one-twentieth of an inch in diameter, were wound round a cylinder of wood as a helix," he said, "the different spires of which were prevented from touching by a thin interposed twine. This helix was covered with calico, and then a second wire applied in the same manner. In this way twelve helices were "superposed, each containing an average length of wire of twenty-seven feet, and all in the same direction. The first, third, fifth, seventh, ninth, and eleventh of these helices were connected at their extremities end to end so as to form one helix; the others were connected in a similar manner; and thus two principal helices were produced, closely interposed, having the same direction, not touching anywhere, and each containing one hundred and fifty-five feet in length of wire.

One of these helices was connected with a galvanometer, the other with a voltaic battery of ten pairs of plates four inches square, with double coppers and well charged; yet not the slightest sensible deflection of the galvanometer needle could be observed.

"A similar compound helix, consisting of six lengths of copper and six of soft iron wire, was constructed. The resulting iron helix contained two hundred and eight feet; but whether the current from the trough was passed through the copper or the iron helix, no effect upon the other could be perceived at the galvanometer.

"In these and many similar experiments no difference in action of any kind appeared between iron and other metals.

"Two hundred and three feet of copper wire in one length were passed round a large block of wood; other two hundred and three feet of similar wire were interposed as a spiral between the turns of the first, and metallic contact everywhere prevented by twine. One of these helices was connected with a galvanometer and the other with a battery of a hundred pairs of plates four inches square, with double coppers and well charged. When the contact was made, there was a sudden and very slight effect at the galvanometer, and there was also a similar slight effect when the contact with the battery was broken. But whilst the voltaic current was continuing to pass through the one helix, no galvanometrical appearances of any effect like induction upon the other helix could be perceived, although the active power of the battery was proved to be great by its heating the whole of its own helix, and by the brilliancy of the discharge when made through charcoal.

"Repetition of the experiments with a battery of one hundred and twenty pairs of plates produced no other effects; but it was ascertained, both at this and at the former time, that the slight deflection of the needle occurring at the moment of completing the connection was always in one direction, and that the equally slight deflection produced when the contact was broken was in the other direction; and, also, that these effects occurred when the first helices were used.

"The results which I had by this time obtained with magnets led me to believe that the battery current through one wire did, in reality, induce a similar current through the other wire, but that it continued for an instant only, and partook more of the nature of the electrical wave passed through from the shock of a common Leyden jar than of that from a voltaic battery, and, therefore, might magnetize a steel needle although it scarcely affected the galvanometer.

"This expectation was confirmed; for on substituting a small hollow helix, formed round a glass tube, for the galvanometer, introducing a steel needle, making contact as before between the battery and the inducing wire, and then removing the needle before the battery contact was broken, it was found magnetized.

"When the battery contact was first made, then an unmagnetized needle introduced, and lastly the battery contact broken, the needle was found magnetized to an equal degree apparently with the first; but the poles were of the contrary kinds."[3]

To Faraday these experiments explained the phenomenon of Arago's rotating disk, the disk inducing the current from the magnet, and, in reacting, deflecting the needle. To prove this, he constructed a disk that revolved between the poles of an electro-magnet, connecting the axis and the edge of the disk with a galvanometer. ". . . A disk of copper, twelve inches in diameter, fixed upon a brass axis," he says, "was mounted in frames so as to be revolved either vertically or horizontally, its edge being at the same time introduced more or less between the magnetic poles. The edge of the plate was well amalgamated for the purpose of obtaining good but movable contact; a part round the axis was also prepared in a similar manner.

"Conductors or collectors of copper and lead were constructed so as to come in contact with the edge of the copper disk, or with other forms of plates hereafter to be described. These conductors we're about four inches long, one-third of an inch wide, and one-fifth of an inch thick; one end of each was slightly grooved, to allow of more exact adaptation to the somewhat convex edge of the plates, and then amalgamated. Copper wires, one-sixteenth of an inch in thickness, attached in the ordinary manner by convolutions to the other ends of these conductors, passed away to the galvanometer.

"All these arrangements being made, the copper disk was adjusted, the small magnetic poles being about one-half an inch apart, and the edge of the plate inserted about half their width between them. One of the galvanometer wires was passed twice or thrice loosely round the brass axis of the plate, and the other attached to a conductor, which itself was retained by the hand in contact with the amalgamated edge of the disk at the part immediately between the magnetic poles. Under these circumstances all was quiescent, and the galvanometer exhibited no effect. But the instant the plate moved the galvanometer was influenced, and by revolving the plate quickly the needle could be deflected ninety degrees or more."[4]

This rotating disk was really a dynamo electric machine in miniature, the first ever constructed, but whose direct descendants are the ordinary dynamos. Modern dynamos range in power from little machines operating machinery requiring only fractions of a horsepower to great dynamos operating street-car lines and lighting cities; but all are built on the same principle as Faraday's rotating disk. By this discovery the use of electricity as a practical and economical motive power became possible.


When the discoveries of Faraday of electro-magnetic induction had made possible the means of easily generating electricity, the next natural step was to find a means of storing it or accumulating it. This, however, proved no easy matter, and as yet a practical storage or secondary battery that is neither too cumbersome, too fragile, nor too weak in its action has not been invented. If a satisfactory storage battery could be made, it is obvious that its revolutionary effects could scarcely be overestimated. In the single field of aeronautics, it would probably solve the question of aerial navigation. Little wonder, then, that inventors have sought so eagerly for the invention of satisfactory storage batteries. As early as 1803 Ritter had attempted to make such a secondary battery. In 1843 Grove also attempted it. But it was not until 1859, when Gaston Planche produced his invention, that anything like a reasonably satisfactory storage battery was made. Planche discovered that sheets of lead immersed in dilute sulphuric acid were very satisfactory for the production of polarization effects. He constructed a battery of sheets of lead immersed in sulphuric acid, and, after charging these for several hours from the cells of an ordinary Bunsen battery, was able to get currents of great strength and considerable duration. This battery, however, from its construction of lead, was necessarily heavy and cumbersome. Faure improved it somewhat by coating the lead plates with red-lead, thus increasing the capacity of the cell. Faure's invention gave a fresh impetus to inventors, and shortly after the market was filled with storage batteries of various kinds, most of them modifications of Planche's or Faure's. The ardor of enthusiastic inventors soon flagged, however, for all these storage batteries proved of little practical account in the end, as compared with other known methods of generating power.

Three methods of generating electricity are in general use: static or frictional electricity is generated by "plate" or "static" machines; galvanic, generated by batteries based on Volta's discovery; and induced, or faradic, generated either by chemical or mechanical action. There is still another kind, thermo-electricity, that may be generated in a most simple manner. In 1821 Seebecle, of Berlin, discovered that when a circuit was formed of two wires of different metals, if there be a difference in temperature at the juncture of these two metals an electrical current will be established. In this way heat may be transmitted directly into the energy of the current without the interposition of the steam-engine. Batteries constructed in this way are of low resistance, however, although by arranging several of them in "series," currents of considerable strength can be generated. As yet, however, they are of little practical importance.

About the middle of the century Clerk-Maxwell advanced the idea that light waves were really electro- magnetic waves. If this were true and light proved to be simply one form of electrical energy, then the same would be true of radiant heat. Maxwell advanced this theory, but failed to substantiate it by experimental confirmation. But Dr. Heinrich Hertz, a few years later, by a series of experiments, demonstrated the correctness of Maxwell's surmises. What are now called "Hertzian waves" are waves apparently identical with light waves, but of much lower pitch or period. In his experiments Hertz showed that, under proper conditions, electric sparks between polished balls were attended by ether waves of the same nature as those of light, but of a pitch of several millions of vibrations per second. These waves could be dealt with as if they were light waves—reflected, refracted, and polarized. These are the waves that are utilized in wireless telegraphy.


In December of 1895 word came out of Germany of a scientific discovery that startled the world. It came first as a rumor, little credited; then as a pronounced report; at last as a demonstration. It told of a new manifestation of energy, in virtue of which the interior of opaque objects is made visible to human eyes. One had only to look into a tube containing a screen of a certain composition, and directed towards a peculiar electrical apparatus, to acquire clairvoyant vision more wonderful than the discredited second-sight of the medium. Coins within a purse, nails driven into wood, spectacles within a leather case, became clearly visible when subjected to the influence of this magic tube; and when a human hand was held before the tube, its bones stood revealed in weird simplicity, as if the living, palpitating flesh about them were but the shadowy substance of a ghost.

Not only could the human eye see these astounding revelations, but the impartial evidence of inanimate chemicals could be brought forward to prove that the mind harbored no illusion. The photographic film recorded the things that the eye might see, and ghostly pictures galore soon gave a quietus to the doubts of the most sceptical. Within a month of the announcement of Professor Roentgen's experiments comment upon the "X-ray" and the "new photography" had become a part of the current gossip of all Christendom.

It is hardly necessary to say that such a revolutionary thing as the discovery of a process whereby opaque objects became transparent, or translucent, was not achieved at a single bound with no intermediate discoveries. In 1859 the German physicist Julius Plucker (1801-1868) noticed that when there was an electrical discharge through an exhausted tube at a low pressure, on the surrounding walls of the tube near the negative pole, or cathode, appeared a greenish phosphorescence. This discovery was soon being investigated by a number of other scientists, among others Hittorf, Goldstein, and Professor (now Sir William) Crookes. The explanations given of this phenomenon by Professor Crookes concern us here more particularly, inasmuch as his views did not accord exactly with those held by the other two scientists, and as his researches were more directly concerned in the discovery of the Roentgen rays. He held that the heat and phosphorescence produced in a low-pressure tube were caused by streams of particles, projected from the cathode with great velocity, striking the sides of the glass tube. The composition of the glass seemed to enter into this phosphorescence also, for while lead glass produced blue phosphorescence, soda glass produced a yellowish green. The composition of the glass seemed to be changed by a long-continued pelting of these particles, the phosphorescence after a time losing its initial brilliancy, caused by the glass becoming "tired," as Professor Crookes said. Thus when some opaque substance, such as iron, is placed between the cathode and the sides of the glass tube so that it casts a shadow in a certain spot on the glass for some little time, it is found on removing the opaque substance or changing its position that the area of glass at first covered by the shadow now responded to the rays in a different manner from the surrounding glass.

The peculiar ray's, now known as the cathode rays, not only cast a shadow, but are deflected by a magnet, so that the position of the phosphorescence on the sides of the tube may be altered by the proximity of a powerful magnet. From this it would seem that the rays are composed of particles charged with negative electricity, and Professor J. J. Thomson has modified the experiment of Perrin to show that negative electricity is actually associated with the rays. There is reason for believing, therefore, that the cathode rays are rapidly moving charges of negative electricity. It is possible, also, to determine the velocity at which these particles are moving by measuring the deflection produced by the magnetic field.

From the fact that opaque substances cast a shadow in these rays it was thought at first that all solids were absolutely opaque to them. Hertz, however, discovered that a small amount of phosphorescence occurred on the glass even when such opaque substances as gold-leaf or aluminium foil were interposed between the cathode and the sides of the tube. Shortly afterwards Lenard discovered that the cathode rays can be made to pass from the inside of a discharge tube to the outside air. For convenience these rays outside the tube have since been known as "Lenard rays."

In the closing days of December, 1895, Professor Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen, of Wurzburg, announced that he had made the discovery of the remarkable effect arising from the cathode rays to which reference was made above. He found that if a plate covered with a phosphorescent substance is placed near a discharge tube exhausted so highly that the cathode rays produced a green phosphorescence, this plate is made to glow in a peculiar manner. The rays producing this glow were not the cathode rays, although apparently arising from them, and are what have since been called the Roentgen rays, or X-rays.

Roentgen found that a shadow is thrown upon the screen by substances held between it and the exhausted tube, the character of the shadow depending upon the density of the substance. Thus metals are almost completely opaque to the rays; such substances as bone much less so, and ordinary flesh hardly so at all. If a coin were held in the hand that had been interposed between the tube and the screen the picture formed showed the coin as a black shadow; and the bones of the hand, while casting a distinct shadow, showed distinctly lighter; while the soft tissues produced scarcely any shadow at all. The value of such a discovery was obvious from the first; and was still further enhanced by the discovery made shortly that, photographic plates are affected by the rays, thus making it possible to make permanent photographic records of pictures through what we know as opaque substances.

What adds materially to the practical value of Roentgen's discovery is the fact that the apparatus for producing the X-rays is now so simple and relatively inexpensive that it is within the reach even of amateur scientists. It consists essentially of an induction coil attached either to cells or a street-current plug for generating the electricity, a focus tube, and a phosphorescence screen. These focus tubes are made in various shapes, but perhaps the most popular are in the form of a glass globe, not unlike an ordinary small-sized water-bottle, this tube being closed and exhausted, and having the two poles (anode and cathode) sealed into the glass walls, but protruding at either end for attachment to the conducting wires from the induction coil. This tube may be mounted on a stand at a height convenient for manipulation. The phosphorescence screen is usually a plate covered with some platino-cyanide and mounted in the end of a box of convenient size, the opposite end of which is so shaped that it fits the contour of the face, shutting out the light and allowing the eyes of the observer to focalize on the screen at the end. For making observations the operator has simply to turn on the current of electricity and apply the screen to his eyes, pointing it towards the glowing tube, when the shadow of any substance interposed between the tube and the screen will appear upon the phosphorescence plate.

The wonderful shadow pictures produced on the phosphorescence screen, or the photographic plate, would seem to come from some peculiar form of light, but the exact nature of these rays is still an open question. Whether the Roentgen rays are really a form of light—that is, a form of "electro-magnetic disturbance propagated through ether," is not fully determined. Numerous experiments have been undertaken to determine this, but as yet no proof has been found that the rays are a form of light, although there appears to be nothing in their properties inconsistent with their being so. For the moment most investigators are content to admit that the term X-ray virtually begs the question as to the intimate nature of the form of energy involved.