We began Women’s History Month with a bang; International Women’s Day celebrated decades of strong, intelligent women who have fought for our rights, slain gender barriers, and made remarkable scientific achievements. Seeing as Rosetta Radiology is focused on all things related to radioactivity’s utility in the medical field, we would like to shine a spotlight on one of the most famous female radiologists and women in radiology: Madame Marie Curie.

About Marie Curie

Born as Maria Salomea Skłodowska on November 7th, 1867, madame Curie spent her years absorbed in her scientific work until the day she died at age66, on July 4th in 1934. She suffered from aplastic anemia, a condition caused by her repeated and excessive exposure to radiation during her studies. – Wikipedia

This woman was a force to be reckoned with; she fought hard to secure herself a place in France, where she met her eventual scientific partner and husband, Pierre Curie. Her radium and radiation discoveries have long been revered and appreciated; they laid the groundwork for cancer treatments and imaging techniques. As a testament to her greatness, Marie secured two Nobel prizes during her life; she was the first woman to receive one and the only woman (so far) to receive two.

While these achievements are significant and laudable, perhaps Marie’s greatest and most underrated accomplishment was the invention and production of her original idea: Les Petites Curies.

Les Petites Curies

Marie was forty-six when the First World War began; by then, she had already secured the two Nobel Peace prizes that she is so well-known for. It’s understated how much Curie contributed to the war effort; she was incredibly generous, donating the majority of her Nobel prize money to the war effort and through the buying of war bonds. However, Marie didn’t stop there.

Translating to “the little Curies” from French, Les Petites Curies were units composed entirely of women who brought life-saving mobile radiology scans (developed by Curie herself) to the frontlines during World War I. Using X-ray technology, Curie created vehicles that housed complete scanners; these 20 vehicles would be used to diagnose wounded soldiers and inform frontline surgeons. These vehicles were funded mainly by Curie and her lobbying of wealthy friends and other French citizens. Marie went on to create 200 more stationary machines that could be installed in field hospitals, safely away from the front lines.

Impact on the First World War

With the information that immediate X-ray scans provided to military medics and doctors, surgeons could avoid needless amputations and locate shrapnel for removal. The images that this technology produced saved countless lives and it was never recognized by the French government.

As a business that focuses on radiology, we understand the immense value that Marie Curie brought to this field— radiation now has applications from geology to cancer treatment. Without the work and dedication of this brilliant woman, our knowledge of radioactive materials would not be the same. Madame Curie is an inspiration to us all.