Marie Curie


Birth of Marie Curie

November 7, 1867

Born at Warsaw, on the 7th of November, 1867, I was the last of five children.

Death of Her Mother and Sister

1876 - 1878

My oldest sister died at the early age of fourteen, and we were left, three sisters and a brother. Cruelly struck by the loss of her daughter and worn away by a grave illness, my mother died at forty-two, leaving her husband in the deepest sorrow with his children. I was then only nine years old, and my eldest brother was hardly thirteen.
This catastrophe was the first great sorrow of my life and threw me into a profound depression. My mother had an exceptional personality. With all her intellectuality she had a big heart and a very high sense of duty. And, though possessing infinite indulgence and good nature, she still held in the family a remarkable moral authority. She had an ardent piety (my parents were both Catholics), but she was never intolerant; differences in religious belief did not trouble her; she was equally kind to any one not sharing her opinions. Her influence over me was extraordinary, for in me the natural love of the little girl for her mother was united with a passionate admiration.
Very much affected by the death of my mother, my father devoted himself entirely to his work and to the care of our education. His professional obligations were heavy and left him little leisure time. For many years we all felt weighing on us the loss of the one who had been the soul of the house.

Quest for Education

1883 - 1894

We all started our studies very young. I was only six years old, and, because I was the youngest and smallest in the class, was frequently brought forward to recite when there were visitors. This was a great trial to me, because of my timidity; I wanted always to run away and hide. My father, an excellent educator, was interested in our work and knew how to direct it, but the conditions of our education were difficult. We began our studies in private schools and finished them in those of the government.
Warsaw was then under Russian domination, and one of the worst aspects of this control was the oppression exerted on the school and the child. The private schools directed by Poles were closely watched by the police and overburdened with the necessity of teaching the Russian language even to children so young that they could scarcely speak their native Polish. Nevertheless, since the teachers were nearly all of Polish nationality, they endeavored in every possible way to mitigate the difficulties resulting from the national persecution. These schools, however, could not legally give diplomas, which were obtainable only in those of the government.
The latter, entirely Russian, were directly opposed to the Polish national spirit. All instruction was given in Russian, by Russian professors, who, being hostile to the Polish nation, treated their pupils as enemies. Men of moral and intellectual distinction could scarcely agree to teach in schools where an alien attitude was forced upon them. So what the pupils were taught was of questionable value, and the moral atmosphere was altogether unbearable. Constantly held in suspicion and spied upon, the children knew that a single conversation in Polish, or an imprudent word, might seriously harm not only themselves, but also their families. Amidst these hostilities, they lost all the joy of life, and precocious feelings of distrust and indignation weighed upon their childhood. On the other side, this abnormal situation resulted in exciting the patriotic feeling of Polish youths to the highest degree.
Yet of this period of my early youth, darkened though it was by mourning and the sorrow of oppression, I still keep more than one pleasant remembrance. In our quiet but occupied life, reunions of relatives and friends of our family brought some joy. My father was very interested in literature and well acquainted with Polish and foreign poetry; he even composed poetry himself and was able to translate it from foreign languages into Polish in a very successful way. His little poems on family events were our delight. On Saturday evenings he used to recite or read to us the masterpieces of Polish prose and poetry. These evenings were for us a great pleasure and a source of renewed patriotic feelings.
Since my childhood I have had a strong taste for poetry, and I willingly learned by heart long passages from our great poets, the favorite ones being Mickiewecz, Krasinski and Slowacki. This taste was even more developed when I became acquainted with foreign literatures; my early studies included the knowledge of French, German, and Russian, and I soon became familiar with the fine works written in these languages. Later I felt the need of knowing English and succeeded in acquiring the knowledge of that language and its literature.
My musical studies have been very scarce. My mother was a musician and had a beautiful voice. She wanted us to have musical training. After her death, having no more encouragement from her, I soon abandoned this effort, which I often regretted afterwards.
I learned easily mathematics and physics, as far as these sciences were taken in consideration in the school. I found in this ready help from my father, who loved science and had to teach it himself. He enjoyed any explanation he could give us about Nature and her ways. Unhappily, he had no laboratory and could not perform experiments.
The periods of vacations were particularly comforting, when, escaping the strict watch of the police in the city, we took refuge with relatives or friends in the country. There we found the free life of the old-fashioned family estate; races in the woods and joyous participation in work in the far-stretching, level grain-fields. At other times we passed the border of our Russian-ruled division (Congress Poland) and went southwards into the mountain country of Galicia, where the Austrian political control was less oppressive than that which we suffered. There we could speak Polish in all freedom and sing patriotic songs without going to prison.
My first impression of the mountains was very vivid, because I had been brought up in the plains. So I enjoyed immensely our life in the Carpathian villages, the view of the pikes, the excursions to the valleys and to the high mountain lakes with picturesque names such as: "The Eye of the Sea." However, I never lost my attachment to the open horizon and the gentle views of a plain hill country.
Later I had the opportunity to spend a vacation with my father far more south in Podolia, and to have the first view of the sea at Odessa, and afterwards at the Baltic shore. This was a thrilling experience. But it was in France that I become acquainted with the big waves of the ocean and the ever-changing tide. All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child.
Thus passed the period of our school life. We all had much facility for intellectual work. My brother, Doctor Sklodowski, having finished his medical studies, became later the chief physician in one of the principal Warsaw hospitals. My sisters and I intended to take up teaching as our parents had done. However, my elder sister, when grown up, changed her mind and decided to study medicine. She took the degree of doctor at the Paris University, married Doctor Dluski, a Polish physician, and together they established an important sanatorium in a wonderfully beautiful Carpathian mountain place of Austrian Poland. My second sister, married in Warsaw, Mrs. Szalay, was for many years a teacher in the schools, where she rendered great service. Later she was appointed in one of the lyceums of free Poland.
I was but fifteen when I finished my high-school studies, always having held first rank in my class. The fatigue of growth and study compelled me to take almost a year's rest in the country. I then returned to my father in Warsaw, hoping to teach in the free schools. But family circumstances obliged me to change my decision. My father, now aged and tired, needed rest; his fortune was very modest. So I resolved to accept a position as governess for several children. Thus, when scarcely seventeen, I left my father's house to begin an independent life.

Pierre Curie


It was in 1894 that I first met Pierre Curie. One of my compatriots, a professor at the University of Fribourg, having called upon me., invited me to his home, with a young physicist of Paris, whom he knew and esteemed highly. Upon entering the room I perceived, standing framed by the French window opening on the balcony, a tall young man with auburn hair and large, limpid eyes. I noticed the grave and gentle expression of his face, as well as a certain abandon in his attitude, suggesting the dreamer absorbed in his reflections. He showed me a simple cordiality and seemed to me very sympathetic. After that first interview he expressed the desire to see me again and to continue our conversation of that evening on scientific and social subjects in which he and I were both interested, and on which we seemed to have similar opinions.
Sometime later, he came to me in my student room and we became good friends. He described to me his days, filled with work, and his dream of an existence entirely devoted to science. He was not long in asking me to share that existence, but I could not decide at once; I hesitated before a decision that meant abandoning my country and my family.
I went back to Poland for my vacation, without knowing whether or not I was to return to Paris. But circumstances permitted me again to take up my work there in the autumn of that year. I entered one of the physics laboratories at the Sorbonne, to begin experimental research in preparation for my doctor's thesis.
Again I saw Pierre Curie. Our work drew us closer and closer, until we were both convinced that neither of us could find a better life companion. So our marriage was decided upon and took place a little later, in July, 1895.
Pierre Curie had just received his doctor's degree and had been made professor in the School of Physics and Chemistry of the City of Paris. He was thirty-six years old, and already a physicist known and appreciated in France and abroad. Solely preoccupied with scientific investigation, he had paid little attention to his career, and his material resources were very modest. He lived at Sceaux, in the suburbs of Paris, with his old parents, whom he loved tenderly, and whom he described as "exquisite" the first time he spoke to me about them. In fact, they were so: the father was an elderly physician of high intellect and strong character, and the mother the most excellent of women, entirely devoted to her husband and her sons. Pierre's elder brother, who was then professor at the University of Montpellier, was always his best friend. So I had the privilege of entering into a family worthy of affection and esteem, and where I found the warmest welcome.
We were married in the simplest way. I wore no unusual dress on my marriage day, and only a few friends were present at the ceremony, but I had the joy of having my father and my second sister come from Poland.
We did not care for more than a quiet place in which to live and to work, and were happy to find a little apartment of three rooms with a beautiful view of a garden. A few pieces of furniture came to us from our parents. With a money gift from a relative we acquired two bicycles to take us out into the country.

Discovery of Polonium

1896 - 1898

But first of all in our life was our scientific work. My husband gave much care to the preparation of his courses, and I gave him some assistance in this, which, at the time, helped me in my education. However, most of our time was devoted to our laboratory researches.
My husband did not then have a private laboratory. He could, to some extent, use the laboratory of the school for his own work, but found more freedom by installing himself in some unused corner of the Physics School building. I thus learned from his example that one could work happily even in very insufficient quarters. At this time my husband was occupied with researches on crystals, while I undertook an investigation of the magnetic properties of steel. This work was completed and published in 1897.
In that same year the birth of our first daughter brought a great change in our life. A few weeks later my husband's mother died and his father came to live with us. We took a small house with a garden at the border of Paris and continued to occupy this house as long as my husband lived.
It became a serious problem how to take care of our little Irene and of our home without giving up my scientific work. Such a renunciation would have been very painful to me, and my husband would not even think of it; he used to say that he had got a wife made expressly for him to share all his preoccupations. Neither of us would contemplate abandoning what was so precious to both.
Of course we had to have a servant, but I personally saw to all the details of the child's care. While I was in the laboratory, she was in the care of her grandfather, who loved her tenderly and whose own life was made brighter by her. So the close union of our family enabled me to meet my obligations. Things were particularly difficult only in case of more exceptional events, such as a child's illness, when sleepless nights interrupted the normal course of life.
It can be easily understood that there was no place in our life for worldly relations. We saw but a few friends, scientific workers, like ourselves, with whom we talked in our home or in our garden, while I did some sewing for my little girl. We also maintained affectionate relations with my husband's brother and his family. But I was separated from all my relatives, as my sister had left Paris with her husband to live in Poland.
It was under this mode of quiet living, organized according to our desires, that we achieved the great work of our lives, work begun about the end of 1897 and lasting for many years. I had decided on a theme for my doctorate. My attention had been drawn to the interesting experiments of Henri Becquerel on the salts of the rare metal uranium. Becquerel had shown that by placing some uranium salt on a photographic plate, covered with black paper, the plate would be affected as if light had fallen on it. The effect is produced by special rays which are emitted by the uranium salt and are different from ordinary luminous rays as they can pass through black paper. Becquerel also showed that these rays can discharge an electroscope. He at first thought that the uranium rays were produced as a result of exposing the uranium salt to light, but experiment showed that salts kept for several months in the dark continued the peculiar rays.
My husband and I were much excited by this new phenomenon, and I resolved to undertake the first thing to do was to measure the phenomenon with precision. In this I decided to use that property of the rays which enabled them to discharge an electroscope. However, instead of the usual electroscope, I used a more perfect apparatus. One of the models of the apparatus used by me for these first measurements is now in the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Philadelphia.
I was not long in obtaining interesting results. My determinations showed that the emission of the rays is an atomic property of the uranium, whatever the physical or chemical conditions of the salt were. Any substance containing uranium is as much more active in emitting rays, as it contains more of this element.
I then thought to find out if there were other substances possessing this remarkable property of uranium, and soon found that substances containing thorium behaved in a similar way, and that this behavior depended similarly on an atomic property of thorium. I was now about to undertake a detailed study of the uranium and thorium rays when I discovered a new interesting fact.
I had occasion to examine a certain number of minerals. A few of them showed activity; they were those containing either uranium or thorium. The activity of these minerals would have had nothing astonishing about it, if it had been in proportion to the quantities of uranium or thorium contained in them. But it was not so. Some of these minerals revealed an activity three or four times greater than that of uranium. I verified this surprising fact carefully, and could not doubt its truth. Speculating about the reason for this, there seemed to be but one explanation. There must be, I thought, some unknown substance, very active, in these minerals. My husband agreed with me and I urged that we search at once for this hypothetical substance, thinking that, with joined efforts, a result would be quickly obtained. Neither of us could foresee that in beginning this work we were to enter the path of a new science which we should follow for all our future.
Of course, I did not expect, even at the beginning, to find a new element in any large quantity, as the minerals had already been analyzed with some precision. At least, I thought there might be as much as one per cent of the unknown substance in the minerals. But the more we worked, the clearer we realized that the new radioactive element could exist only in quite minute proportion and that, in consequence, its activity must be very great. Would we have insisted, despite the scarcity of our means of research, if we had known the true proportion of what we were searching for, no one can tell; all that can be said now is that the constant progress of our work held us absorbed in a passionate research, while the difficulties were ever increasing. As a matter of fact, it was only after several years of most arduous labor that we finally succeeded in completely separating the new substance, now known to everybody as radium. Here is, briefly, the story of the search and discovery.
As we did not know, at the beginning, any of the chemical properties of the unknown substance, but only that it emits rays, it was by these rays that we had to search. We first undertook the analysis of a pitchblende from St. Joachimsthal. Analyzing this ore by the usual chemical methods, we added an examination of its different parts for radioactivity, by the use of our delicate electrical apparatus. This was the foundation of a new method of chemical analysis which, following our work, has been extended, with the result that a large number of radioactive elements have been discovered.
In a few weeks we could be convinced that our prevision had been right, for the activity was concentrating in a regular way. And, in a few months, we could separate from the pitchblende a substance accompanying the bismuth, much more active than uranium, and having well defined chemical properties. In July, 1898, we announced the existence of this new substance, to which I gave the name of polonium, in memory of my native country.



In that same year the birth of our first daughter brought a great change in our life. A few weeks later my husband’s mother died and his father came to live with us. We took a small house with a garden at the border of Paris and continued to occupy this house as long as my husband lived. It became a serious problem how to take care of our little Irene and of our home without giving up my scientific work. Such a renunciation would have been very painful to me, and my husband would not even think of it; he used to say that he had got a wife made expressly for him to share all his preoccupations. Neither of us would contemplate abandoning what was so precious to both. Of course we had to have a servant, but I personally saw to all the details of the child’s care. While I was in the laboratory, she was in the care of her grandfather, who loved her tenderly and whose own life was made brighter by her. So the close union of our family enabled me to meet my obligations.

Discovery of Radium

December 1898 - 1902

While engaged in this work on polonium, we had also discovered that, accompanying the barium separated from the pitchblende, there was another new element. After several months more of close work we were able to separate this second new substance, which was afterwards shown to be much more important than polonium. In December, 1898, we could announce the discovery of this new and now famous element, to which we gave the name of radium.
However, the greatest part of the material work had yet to be done. We had, to be sure, discovered the existence of the remarkable new elements, but it was chiefly by their radiant properties that these new substances were distinguished from the bismuth and barium with which they were mixed in minute quantities. We had still to separate them as pure elements. On this work we now started.
We were very poorly equipped with facilities for this purpose. It was necessary to subject large quantities of ore to careful chemical treatment. We had no money, no suitable laboratory, and no personal help for our great and difficult undertaking. It was like creating something out of nothing, and if my earlier studying years had once been called by my brother-in-law the heroic period of my life, I can say without exaggeration that the period on which my husband and I now entered was truly the heroic one of our common life.
We knew by our experiments that in the treatment of pitchblende at the uranium plant of St. Joachimsthal, radium must have been left in the residues, and, with the permission of the Austrian government, which owned the plant, we succeeded in securing a certain quantity of these residues, then quite valueless, -- and used them for extraction of radium. How glad I was when the sacks arrived, with the brown dust mixed with pine needles, and when the activity proved even greater than that of the primitive ore! It was a stroke of luck that the residues had not been thrown far away or disposed of in some way, but left in a heap in the pine wood near the plant. Sometime later, the Austrian government, on the proposition of the Academy of Science of Vienna, let us have several tons of similar residues at a low price. With this material was prepared all the radium I had in my laboratory up to the date when I received the precious gift from the American women.
The School of Physics could give us no suitable premises, but for lack of anything better, the Director permitted us to use an abandoned shed which had been in service as a dissecting room of the School of Medicine. Its glass roof did not afford complete shelter against rain; the heat was suffocating in summer, and the bitter cold of winter was only a little lessened by the iron stove, except in its immediate vicinity. There was no question of obtaining the needed proper apparatus in common use by chemists. We simply had some old pine-wood tables with furnaces and gas burners. We had to use the adjoining yard for those of our chemical operations that involved producing irritating gases; even then the gas often filled our shed. With this equipment we entered on our exhausting work.
Yet it was in this miserable old shed that we passed the best and happiest years of our life, devoting our entire days to our work. Often I had to prepare our lunch in the shed, so as not to interrupt some particularly important operation. Sometimes I had to spend a whole day mixing a boiling mass with a heavy iron rod nearly as large as myself. I would be broken with fatigue at the day's end. Other days, on the contrary, the work would be a most minute and delicate fractional crystallization, in the effort to concentrate the radium. I was then annoyed by the floating dust of iron and coal from which I could not protect my precious products. But I shall never be able to express the joy of the untroubled quietness of this atmosphere of research and the excitement of actual progress with the confident hope of still better results. The feeling of discouragement that sometimes came after some unsuccessful toil did not last long and gave way to renewed activity. We had happy moments devoted to a quiet discussion of our work, walking around our shed.

1st Nobel Prize


In later years I was able to prepare several decigrammes of pure radium salt, to make a more accurate determination of the atomic weight and even to isolate the pure radium metal. However, 1902 was the year in which the existence and character of radium were definitely established.
We had been able to live for several years entirely engrossed in the work of research, but gradually circumstances changed. In 1900 my husband was offered a professorship in the University of Geneva, but almost simultaneously he obtained a position of assistant professor at the Sorbonne, and I was made professor at the Normal Superior School for young girls at Sèvres. So we remained in Paris.
I became much interested in my work in the Normal School, and endeavored to develop more fully the practical laboratory exercises of the pupils. These pupils were girls of about twenty years who had entered the school after severe examination and had still to work very seriously to meet the requirements that would enable them to be named professors in the lycées. All these young women worked with great eagerness, and it was a pleasure for me to direct their studies in physics. But a growing notoriety, because of the announcement of our discoveries, began to trouble our quiet work in the laboratory, and, little by little, life became more difficult. In 1903 I finished my doctor's thesis and obtained the degree. At the end of the same year the Nobel Prize was awarded jointly to Becquerel, my husband and me for the discovery of radioactivity and new radioactive elements.
This event greatly increased the publicity of our work. For some time there was no more peace. Visitors and demands for lectures and articles interrupted every day.
The award of the Nobel Prize was a great honor. It is also known that the material means provided by this prize was much greater than is usual in prizes for science. This was a great help in the continuation of our researches. Unhappily, we were overtired and had a succession of failures of health for the one or the other of us, so that it was not until 1905 that we were able to go to Stockholm, where my husband gave his Nobel lecture and where we were well received.



In 1904 our second daughter, Eve Denise, came to us. I had, of course, to interrupt my work in the laboratory for a while. In the same year, because of the awarding of the Nobel Prize and the general public recognition, a new chair of physics was created in Sorbonne, and my husband was named as its occupant. At the same time I was named chief of work in the laboratory that was to be created for him. But in reality the laboratory was not constructed then, and only a few rooms taken from other uses were available to us.

Death of Pierre


In 1906 just as we were definitely giving up the old shed laboratory where we had been so happy, there came the dreadful catastrophe which took my husband away from me and left me alone to bring up our children and, at the same time, to continue our work of research.
It is impossible for me to express the profoundness and importance of the crisis brought into my life by the loss of the one who had been my closest companion and best friend. Crushed by the blow, I did not feel able to face the future. I could not forget, however, what my husband used sometimes to say, that, even deprived of him, I ought to continue my work.
The death of my husband, coming immediately after the general knowledge of the discoveries with which his name is associated, was felt by the public, and especially by the scientific circles, to be a national misfortune. It was largely under the influence of this emotion that the Faculty of Sciences of Paris decided to offer me the chair, as professor, which my husband had occupied only one year and a half in the Sorbonne. It was an exceptional decision, as up to then no woman had held such a position. The University by doing this offered me a precious mark of esteem and gave me opportunity to pursue the researches which otherwise might have had to be abandoned. I had not expected a gift of this kind; I never had any other ambition than to be able to work freely for science. The honor that now came to me was deeply painful under the cruel circumstances of its coming. Besides I wondered whether I would be able to face such a grave responsibility. After much hesitation, I decided that I ought at least to try to meet the task, and so I began in 1906 my teaching in the Sorbonne, as assistant professor, and two years later I was named titular professor.
In my new situation the difficulties of my life were considerably augmented, as I alone had now to carry the burden formerly weighing on my husband and me together. The cares of my young children required close vigilance; in this, my husband's father, who continued to live with us, willingly took his share. He was happy to be occupied with the little girls, whose company was his chief consolation after his son's death. By his effort and mine, the children had a bright home, even if we lived with our inner grief, which they were too young to realize. The strong desire of my father-in-law being to live in the country, we took a house with a garden in Sceaux, a suburb of Paris, from which I could reach the city in half an hour.

2nd Nobel Prize


As a result of all the cares devolving on me, I fell seriously ill at the end of 1911, when, for the second time, I received, this time alone, the award of the Nobel Prize. This was a very exceptional honor, a high recognition of the discovery of the new elements and of the preparation of pure radium. Suffering though I was, I went to Stockholm to receive the prize. The journey was extremely painful for me. I was accompanied by my eldest sister and my young daughter Irene. The ceremony of delivery of the Nobel prizes is very impressive, having the features of a national solemnity. A most generous reception was accorded me, especially by the women of Sweden. This was a great comfort to me, but I was suffering so much that when I returned I had to stay in bed for several months. This grave illness, as well as the necessities of my children's education, obliged me to move my home from Sceaux to Paris.

World War I

1914 - 1918

In 1914, it happened, as it often had in other years, that my daughters had left Paris for their summer vacation before me. They were accompanied by their governess, in whom I had all confidence, and were living in a small house on the seashore in Brittany, at a place where there were also the families of several of our good friends. My work did not generally permit me to pass the entire vacation near them without interruption.
That year I was preparing to join them in the last days of July, when I was stopped by the bad political news, with its premonitions of an imminent military mobilization. It did not seem possible for me to leave under these conditions, and I waited for further events. The mobilization was announced on August 1st, immediately followed by Germany's declaration of war on France. The few men of the laboratory staff and the students were mobilized, and I was left alone with our mechanic who could not join the army because of a serious heart trouble.
The historic events that followed are known to everyone, but only those who lived in Paris through the days of August and September, 1914, can ever really know the state of mind in the capital and the quiet courage shown by it. The mobilization was a general wave of all France passing out to the border for the defense of the land. All our interest now centered on the news from the front.
After the uncertainties of the first days this news became more and more grave.
First, it was the invasion of Belgium and the heroic resistance of that little country; then the victorious march of the German army through the valley of the Oise toward Paris; and soon the departure of the French government to Bordeaux, followed by the leaving of those Parisians who could not, or would not, face the possible danger of German occupation. The overloaded trains took into the country a great number of people, mostly of the well-to-do class. But, on the whole, the people of Paris gave a strong impression of calm and quiet decision in that fateful year of 1914. In the end of August and the beginning of September the weather was radiant, and under the glorious sky of those days the great city with its architectural treasures seemed to be particularly dear to those who remained in it.
When the danger of German attack on Paris became pressing, I felt obliged to put in security the supply of radium then in my laboratory, and I was charged by the government to take it to Bordeaux for safety. But I did not want to be away long, and hence decided to return immediately. I left by one of the trains that were carrying government staff and baggage, and I well remember the aspect of the national highway which is at intervals in view from the train; it showed a long line of motor-cars carrying their owners from the capital.

Arriving at Bordeaux in the evening, I was very embarrassed with my heavy bag including the radium protected by lead. I was not able to carry it and waited in a public place, while a friendly ministry employee who came by the same train managed to find a room for me in a private apartment, the hotels being overcrowded. The next morning I hurried to put the radium in a safe place, and succeeded, although not without difficulty, in taking a military train back to Paris in the evening of the same day. Having opportunity for exchanging a few sentences with persons on the place who wanted to ask information from people coming by the train, I was interested to notice how they seemed surprised and comforted to learn of someone who found it natural to return to Paris.
My trip back was troubled by delays; for several hours the train rested immovable on the rails, while the travelers accepted a little bread from the soldiers who were provided with it. Finally arriving in Paris, I learned that the German army had turned; the battle of the Marne had begun.
In Paris I shared the alternating hope and grief of the inhabitants during the course of that great battle, and had the constant worry of foreseeing a long separation from my children in case the Germans succeeded in occupying the city. Yet I felt that I must stay at my post. After the successful outcome of the battle, however, any immediate danger of occupation being removed, I was able to have my daughters come back from Brittany to Paris and again take up their studies. This was the great desire of my children, who did not want to stay away from me and from their work, even if many other families thought it wiser to stay in the country, far from the front.
The dominant duty imposed on every one at that time was to help the country in whatever way possible during the extreme crisis that it faced. No general instructions to this were given to the members of the University. It was left to each to take his own initiative and means of action. I therefore sought to discover the most efficient way to do useful work, turning my scientific knowledge to most profit.
During the rapid succession of events in August, 1914, it was clearly proved that the preparation for defense was insufficient. Public feeling was especially aroused by the realization of the grave failings which appeared in the organization of the Health Service. My own attention was particularly drawn to this situation, and I soon found a field of activity which, once entered upon, absorbed the greatest part of my time and efforts until the end of the war, and even for some time thereafter. The work was the organization of radiologic and radio-therapeutic services for the military hospitals. But I also had to make the change, during these difficult war years, of my laboratory into the new building of the Institute of Radium and to continue, in the measure possible to me, regular teaching, as well as to investigate certain problems, especially interesting the military service.
It is well known that the X-rays offer surgeons and doctors extremely useful means for the examination of the sick and wounded. They make possible the discovery and the exact location of projectiles which have entered the body, and this is a great help in their extraction. These rays also reveal lesions of bones and of the internal organs and permit one to follow the progress of recovery from internal injuries. The use of the X-rays during the war saved the lives of many wounded men; it also saved many from long suffering and lasting infirmity. To all the wounded it gave a greater chance of recovery.
However, at the beginning of the war, the Military Board of Health had no organization of radiology, while the civil organization was also but little developed. Radiologic installations existed in only a small number of important hospitals, and there were only a few specialists in the large cities. The numerous new hospitals that were established all over France in the first months of the war had, as a rule, no installation for the use of X-rays.
To meet this need I first gathered together all the apparatus I could find in the laboratories and stores. With this equipment I established in August and September, 1914, several stations of radiology, the operation of which was assured by volunteer helpers to whom I gave instruction. These stations rendered great service during the battle of the Marne. But as they could not satisfy the needs of all the hospitals of the Paris region, I fitted up, with the help of the Red Cross, a radiologic car. It was simply a touring motor-car, arranged for the transport of a complete radiologic apparatus, together with a dynamo that was worked by the engine of the car, and furnished the electric current necessary for the production of the rays. This car could come at the call of any of the hospitals, large or small, in the surroundings of Paris. Cases of urgent need were frequent, for these hospitals had to take care of the wounded that could not be transported to more distant places.
The first results of this work showed that it was necessary to do more. Thanks to special donations and to the help of a very efficient relief committee called "le Patronage National des Blessés," I succeeded in developing my initiative to a considerable extent. About two hundred radiologic installations were established or materially improved through my efforts in the zone of the French and Belgian armies, and in the regions of France not occupied by the army. I was able, besides, to equip in my laboratory and give to the army twenty radiologic cars. The frames of these cars were donated by, various persons who wished to be helpful; some of them offered also the equipment. The cars were of the greatest service to the army.

Death of Marie Curie

July 4, 1934