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Help for the Wounded

The Radium Institute in Paris
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In August 1914, Germany invaded France. Nearly all of Curie’s staff at the Radium Institute enlisted in the war effort. Scientific research had to halt during the World War, and Curie looked for ways her science could help. She knew that doctors could use X-rays to save the lives of wounded soldiers by revealing bullets, shrapnel, and broken bones. The problem was to get the X-ray machines to the doctors near the Front. Curie talked wealthy people into donating their cars, and assembled a fleet of 20 mobile X-ray stations as well as 200 stationary stations.

Curie bringing X-ray equipment to the battleground, 1917.

Curie chose her teenage daughter Irène as her first assistant. For a year Irène worked by her mother’s side. Like her mother, she refused to show emotion at the sight of the terrible wounds. Soon Curie allowed Irène to direct an X-ray station by herself. Meanwhile Marie thought of another way for radioactivity to help save soldiers’ lives. At the Radium Institute she prepared tiny glass tubes containing a radioactive gas (radon) that comes from minerals containing radium. Hospital doctors inserted the tiny tubes into patients at spots where the radiation would destroy diseased tissue.

Read what Marie wrote here.quotes image

Irene and Marie giving training in radiation medicine.

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