Ukrainian Physicist Contributes to the Discovery of
Ihor I. Mayba, M.D. (Winnipeg, Canada), Roman Gaida, Ph.D. (Lviv
Ukraine), Robert A. Kyle, M.D., and Marc A. Shampo, Ph.D.
Ukrainian-born physicist Ivan Pawlowich Puluj is
best known for his early investigations on cathode rays and radiation.
In 1877, he constructed a cathode ray tube (or lamp), called "Puluj’s tube";
subsequent refinements led to his creation of a vacuum tube in 1879. By
passing electricity through the tube containing rarified gas, Puiuj produced
cathode rays (high-speed electrons), Between 1881 and 1882, he published
reports on cathode rays, and in 1883, he wrote an article
about his vacuum tube. By 1886, he had recorded his first photographic
plate of the radiation phenomenon. In his 1889 experiments on electricity
and gases, Puluj rioted that photo-graphic plates became black when exposed
to cathode rays. That same year, the Physical Society of London published
a translation of his monograph on cathode rays.
Although Puluj essentially produced x-rays from
cathode rays focused on a photognaphic plate, he did not recognize the
emission as x-rays. German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen (1g45-1923) is credited
with their discovery in Wurzburg. Germany, on Nov. 8,. 1895. almost 7 years
Working independently of Roentgen. Puluj reported his experiments on
the phenomenon of cathode rays and their effect on photographic plates
in 1895. just 6 weeks after Roentgen presented his findings. Puluj’s
work was pub-lished in La Natura (Paris, France) on Feb. 8, 1896, and in
London Photogram (London. England) on Apr. 3, 1896.
The latter publication explained his work and included photographs
showing the skeleton of a baby stillborn at 7 months' gestation. The publication
of his article on cathode rays in Austria on Feb. 13 and Mar. 5, .1896,
demonstrated recognition of Puluj’s' contribution in this area. Subse-quently.
researchers at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire used a Puluj
tube to perform an x-ray examination of a patient's wrist, which showed
a fracture of the ulna.
The high quality
of Puluj’s x-ray photographs was readily apparent when they were published
on the same day (Feb. 8, 1896) in both a French and a Czech journal. The
article in the Czech journal showed Puluj’s photographs of a normal hand
and the hand of a patient with tuberculosis. Puluj]uj suggested that these
types of photographs had applications in surgical treatment.
the son of a minister, was born on Feb. 2, 1845, at Hrymaliv, Galicia,
Ukraine. He received his early education in Ternopil (78 miles east of
Lviv (Lvov). From 1864 to 1869, he studied theology in Vienna, Austria,
and in 1872, he completed studies there in philosophy, mathematics, physics,
and astronomy. He was a lecturer in physics and mathematics at the Austrian
War Academy in Rijeka (Fiume), Austria, from 1874 to 1875. From 1873 to
1875, while studying for his doctorate, Puluj also worked in the physics
laboratory of the University of Strasbourg, where Roentgen was an assistant
at that same time.
Puluj was a
lecturer in experimental physics at the Univer-sity of Vienna from 1877
to 1883. In 1884, he became a professor at Prague Polytechnical Institute
(Czechoslovakia), a position he held until 1916. In 1902, Puluj became
Dean of the Electrotechnical Faculty of Prague Polytechnical Institute.
In addition to his scientific
work, Puluj was an activist for his culture, religion. and language. During
World War I (1914-1918), he helped Ukrainians who were politically per-secuted
10 seek asylum in Prague. He also campaigned for the establishment of a
Ukrainian university in Lviv. lie trans-lated a German textbook of geometry,
the Bible, and a prayer book into the Ukrainian language.
Puluj died in Prague on
Jan. 31,1918, at the age of 72 years. His historic cathode ray tubes and
apparatus were donated to the Ukrainian Medical Society in Lviv, where
they remained until 1941. Sometime after 1945, the collection was confiscated
by the Russian government. and its current whereabouts are unknown. Some
of Puluj's original apparatus. However, is preserved in the museum of Dartmouth
College and in Prague, Paris, and Vienna. From May 22 to 26, 1995, a congress
was held in Lviv and Ternopol to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Puluj's
birth. In 1995, a stamp was issued by Ukraine in his honor.