Wilhelm Roentgen and just a few rays.

Of course, Roentgen rays (which the scientist himself called ‘x-rays’ or unknown rays) are nowadays used widely in different spheres of our life. For example, thanks to these rays people practically escaped humiliating searches of their luggage in airports, and the customs officers are given the possibility to relax and just watch humbly vague silhouettes of personal things. Nonetheless, it was x-rays that did a kind of miracle in the sphere of medicine and their discovery helped to save lives of thousands of people.

Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen in no time achieved popularity and the whole world (especially distinguished physicists and professors of medicine) admired his incredible researches and his great discovery.

Just a year after the discovery of Roentgen rays the physicist received a letter from an English sailor. A request of the Englishman which he wrote in his letter, puzzled and even a little bewildered Roentgen. The sailor wrote that he heard about scientists’ discovery of x-rays Doctors told him that such rays could help to see where a bullet which got stuck in his body was. The sailor was badly injured during the war, and ever since he had been suffering from endless and alarming pain in his chest. But unfortunately all the doctors didn’t hurry to take out a piece of enemy’s steel as they couldn’t see the bullet with their naked eyes and had no idea where it was. Considering all this, the Englishman begged the great scientist to send him even a few number of these ‘magic’ rays. At the end of the letter the sailor assured Wilhelm Conrad that as soon as the bullet was found, the rays would be sent back to their owner.

A confused physicist couldn’t find a way to answer back since the request was to say it mildly unconventional. He couldn’t just ignore the letter because he was brought up well and his good manners didn’t let him ignore any requests. He was ready to start writing the answer, the only trouble was that he didn’t know what tone and style to choose. He thought for a while and finally he decided that humour was the best way out. Thus his answer was the following: ‘To my greatest displeasure, I haven’t got enough x-rays at the moment’.

Then the scientist thought a little and he couldn’t help adding a small caustic remark (obviously the sailor was uneducated) and so he wrote: ‘But if you don’t mind, you could send me your chest and I’ll see what I can do.’ At the end of his letter he assured the sailor that as soon as the bullets were taken out of his chest, he would send it back to its owner.