Lot 116: Rare Roentgen Letter Written in 1895, the Year He Discovered X-Rays
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: Written the Year Röntgen Discovered X-Rays********** RÖNTGEN, WILHELM. (1845-1923). German physicist and Nobel Prize winner; best-known for his discovery of X-rays. LS. (“W. C. Roentgen”). 2pp. 8vo. Wurzburg, February 12, 1895. Written to a colleague on University of Würzburg Institute of Physics stationery. In German with translation. ********** “There is a plan to cut off part of the botanical garden of our university and to use it as a construction site. In the name of the Philosophy Department and with the agreement of my colleague Professor v. Sachs, I am taking the liberty to address two questions to you: 1. How large is the undeveloped area of your botanical garden? 2. What do you think is the minimum size area to satisfy the current requirements of teaching and researching biology? I thank you in advance for your effort…” ********** The University of Würzburg’s botanical garden had been founded as a hospital medicinal garden in 1696 but became part of the university in 1854. In 1873, it was relocated near the Physics Institute, and, in 1895, the University of Würzburg’s senate put forward a building project that would have encroached on the garden, then under the directorship of influential botanist Julius von Sachs (1832-1897), best known for his study of the process of photosynthesis. Röntgen, as university rector, was admired by his colleagues for administering “the affairs of the University with a strict sense of responsibility. He had a broad, far-sighted viewpoint and would never stoop to gain some temporary or personal advantage at the cost of the future general welfare of the University. At one time the Botanical Gardens had to be saved, when a building project threatened their destruction. This defensive action was undertaken by Röntgen” and several colleagues, (Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen and the Early History of the Roentgen Rays, Glasser). ********** It was in the fall of 1895 that Röntgen made his pioneering discovery of the electromagnetic radiation called x-rays. The importance of his discovery was immediately recognized and a long series of awards and honorary degrees followed, culminating in 1901 when he received the first Nobel Prize in physics. ********** World War II bombing raids almost obliterated the botanical garden and in 1960 it was relocated outside the city. The 1895 location of the garden is now the site of the X-ray Monument which honors Röntgen’s discovery. ********** Lightly folded and in very fine condition.