Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
Röntgen attended the technical College in Utrecht but failed the final examinations. Rumour has it that this was due to a teacher who took a dislike to him. This meant he could not take part in the university exams and, instead, he enrolled at Utrecht University as a non-examination student in January 1865. When he heard the Polytechnic in Zurich admitted students without a higher secondary school diploma he applied there with the help of a testimonial from his professor Buys Ballot. Röntgen obtained his PhD in 1869 and later, in 1888, Utrecht University asked Röntgen to be the successor of Buys Ballot. Röntgen refused, however, and stayed in Germany, where he held chairs in Strasbourg, Giessen, Würzburg and Munich.
As a scientist, Röntgen initially focused on gasses and liquids (heat and pressure). He also studied the electric characteristics of crystals. In 1895 he, like many of his colleagues, was carrying out research into cathode rays when he discovered the X-rays that would make him famous. These were much more intense than cathode rays, owing to the fluorescence of crystals of barium platinum cyanide, and they earned him the first Nobel Prize for physics in 1901.
He published his findings in 1895 in a brief publication entitled 'About a new kind of radiation'. The exciting results of his systematic research were first thought to be fairy tales, until the publication of the first X-ray photographs. The photos soon found their uses, also at fun fairs and in department store attractions, but Röntgen never earned a penny from them. He wrote 'I believe that - in line with a good scientific tradition - inventions and discoveries should benefit society at large and are not to be reserved for individuals through patents, licences and such'.