Bericht von Prof. Alfredo Buzzi

Ein Besuch in Röntgens Geburtshaus

Dieser Bericht (englischsprachig) über einen Besuch und eine Übernachtung des großen Röntgen-Fans Prof. Alfredo Buzzi, Präsident der Argentinischen Röntgengesellschaft ist ein ganz besonderer Aufruf, die Renovierung und Neugestaltung von Röntgens Geburtshaus zu unterstützen.

By Prof. Alfredo Buzzi, President of the Argentine Society of Radiology
Vice-Chairman of the International Society for the History of Radiology, March 2015

On November 5, 2010 the British Institute of Radiology and the British Society for the History of Radiology organized a visit to the German Roentgen Museum in Lennep, the second largest city in the district of Remscheid, close to Duesseldorf and Cologne (figure 1).

The tour included the visit of Roentgen's birthplace, the Ars Humanis art exhibition in the Roentgen Museum, a reception in the town hall of Remscheid with dignitaries from the city, and a visit the local region Bergische Land, including the cities of Wuppertal and Solingen.

The visit to the German Roentgen Museum, was organized by Dr Uwe Busch, then the Deputy Director of the Museum (now Director), along with other important delegates from the Society of Friends and Supporters of the Museum.

The German Roentgen Museum opened in 1932 and is the only museum of its kind celebrating Roentgen's life and discoveries.

First plans to establish a Roentgen Museum were made by the German Roentgen Society in 1907 during the presidency of Heinrich Albers-Schoenberg, but the materialization of this idea was prevented by the economic crises.

In 1929 Professor Paul Krause, past president of the German Roentgen Society, suggested to build a Roentgen memorial in Lennep, and on November 30th, 1930 the memorial "The Genius of the Light", sculptured by the German artist Arno Breker, was unveiled (figure 2).

During the ceremony Professor Krause suggested to establish a museum in Roentgen’s birthplace. But the house was not for sale, so the old town house opposite of the memorial was bought. The official opening of the Museum took place on June 18th, 1932.

Roentgen’s birthplace became a part of the Roentgen-Museum in 1985. Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen was born on March 27th, 1845 in this old house (built in the middle 18th century), which the family bought in 1812. Wilhelm Conrad's father was a merchant and a cloth manufacturer, and the town of Lennep had become a centre of cloth manufacturing. The revolution of 1848 was a huge problem for merchants, so the family had to emigrate to Apeldoorn, in the Netherlands, where the family of Wilhelm Conrad’s mother already lived. So little Wilhelm Conrad lived in this house for only three years.

I had the privilege of participate in the visit in November 2010, and also the honor to stay during those days in Roentgen's birth house. I am forever grateful to my friend Dr Uwe Busch for that opportunity.

The house is at Am Gänsemarkt 1, on the corner with Pastoratstrasse (figure 3). Down by Gänsemarkt to Schwelmer Strasse (figure 4) you will find the German Roentgen Museum (figure 5). It is a very nice walk.

In the front of the house there were two plaques (figure 6). One of them hung inside the house, just behind the front window (figure 7). This plaque commemorates Roentgen´s honorary citizenship of the town of Lennep and was unveiled on the occasion of his 75th birthday in 1920. A picture of this was taken on behalf of the mayor of the town of Lennep and sent to Roentgen (he was at Munich at that time). This plaque was in the exterior of the house until 1952. The other plaque hung outside the house since 1952, just to the left of the front door, with a similar message (figure 8).

I occupied a guests and fellows apartment on the top floor, which had a comfortable bed, a wardrobe, a desk and full services. From my window I had a beautiful view of the roofs of the typical houses of Lennep (figure 9). There was also a full kitchen at my disposal at the first floor.  

The house was not open for visitors, so I had the opportunity to wander around the different rooms freely.

In the first room, to the left of the main entrance (figure 10), there were Roentgen's furniture, as his desk (figure 11), a cabinet file (figure 12) and several of his bookcases which in that occasion were empty of books (figures 13 and 14), but one of them displayed a framed photograph and a painting of Roentgen (figure 15).

Upstairs there were different rooms also with furniture that were once used by Roentgen himself.

One of the rooms was set as a dining room (figures 16 and 17). In another room there was a beautiful table, surrounded by armchairs. On the table there was a guestbook which, of course, I signed (figure 18).

In the corner of other room there was a small elegant secretary desk with its chair (figure 19).

Wooden stairs connect the different floors (figure 20). Reaching the first floor there was a small hall with a comfortable armchair (figure 21).

The house was the Museum’s library, and home to a large collection of radiology books and archive material. That's why full bookcases can be seen in all the above figures.

I perfectly remember the day I shut the door behind me for the last time (figure 22)

It was fascinating to visit the Museum, but my stay at Roentgen’s birthplace was an unforgettable experience. I cannot overemphasize how interesting and inspiring my stay at Roentgen's birth house was.

I was very happy to hear that the German Radiological Society has purchased the historic building of Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen's birthplace, and that the construction work has started. The termination of the extensive restoration is expected for this summer.

This effort from the German Radiological Society should be celebrated and applauded, and we all in the radiological community must do our bit to support this initiative.