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The science and art of radiation protection or health physics grew out of the discoveries of x-rays and radioactivity near the end of the nineteenth century The x-ray discovered by German physicist Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen in 1895 was reported to the world shortly after the first of the year in 1896 His discovery was a scientific bombshell and was received with extraordinary interest by both scientist and laymen Many scientist dropped other concentrations of research to pursue the mysterious rays and the newspapers and magazines of the day provided the public with many stories some true others fictional about the properties of the rays The public interest was caught by the invisible ray with the ability to pass through solid matter and along with a photographic plate could provide a picture even though it was a shadowy diffuse one of the bones and interior of the body Scientific interest was captured by an extraordinary new radiation of shorter wavelength than light which opened new grounds of study in physics and the structure of matter Both the scientist and the public were excited about the possible applications of the newly discovered rays as an aid in medicine and surgery So within a month after the announcement of the discovery several medical radiographs had been made in Europe and the United States that were used by surgeons to guide them in their work Only two months after the general announcement of the discovery of the x-rays Henri Becquerel a French physicist announced to the world his discovery of similar penetrating rays emitted from uranium later classified as alpha beta and gamma rays His discovery was unlike that of the x-rays virtually unnoticed by the layman and scientist Only a handful of scientist were interested in Becquerels findings and it was not until the discovery of radium by the Curies two years later that interest in radioactivity became wide spread Discovery of the new particles led to intense
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