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Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923) and the 1914 affair

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923) and the 1914 affair

Journal of Medical Biography 12(2): 90-94

In August 1914 the university library of Leuven (Louvain) was destroyed by the German occupying forces. In October 1914 an Appeal was addressed to "The World of Culture" by 93 German academics and artists in which they disclaimed any German responsibility--"It is not true that our troops have brutally destroyed Louvain". The Appeal had a profound, although mainly negative, effect, especially in the United States, where it almost certainly influenced that country's decision to enter the conflict. Signatories to the Appeal included Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen, the discoverer of X-rays. Why did Röntgen sign such an extraordinary and untrue statement? He claimed that he had not read it, but both the personal and political backgrounds to his action were complex and are worthy of further scrutiny. This paper explores the issue and the reception of the notorious Appeal by the British radiology community.

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Accession: 050983370

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PMID: 15079167

DOI: 10.1177/096777200401200209

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