The Women Behind Cancer Treatment - Chemotherapy and Radiation therapy

Never Miss a Day In History


Née Maria Salomea Skłodowska


November 7, 1867, Warsaw, Congress Poland, Russian Empire


July 4, 1934, near Sallanches, Passy, Haute-Savoie, France

Marie Curie also knew as the mother of modern physics is a Polish-born French physicist, famous for her work on radioactivity and she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize twice. Marie Curie is the only woman to win the award in two different fields.

In 1903, Along with Henri Becquerel and her husband, Pierre Curie, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. In 1911, she was the sole winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.


Marie and Pierre Curie extended the investigation on the discovery of radioactivity after Henri Becquerel. They looked into many substances and minerals for signs of radioactivity and found that the mineral pitchblende was more radioactive than uranium. Finally concluded that it must contain other radioactive substances.

From the discovery of radioactivity, they managed to extract two previously unknown elements, radium, and polonium. Both elements polonium (named after her native country) and radium are more radioactive than uranium. After discovering polonium and radium, Marie continued further to investigate their properties.

In 1910, Marie Curie successfully produced radium as a pure metal and it is proved that the new element's existence beyond a doubt. She documented the radioactive elements and the properties of their compounds.

Today, the radioactive compounds became important as sources of radiation in both scientific experiments and the medical field and these are used to treat tumors.

Radium Uses

  • Radium is used to make self-luminous paints for aircraft instruments, watches, and instrumentations.
  • Radium has largely been replaced by cobalt-60, which is a less dangerous radioactive source. 
  • A mixture of beryllium and radium will emit neutrons, which is used as a neutron source.
  • It is used to produce radon (a radioactive gas) used to treat some types of cancer. 
  • It is more active than uranium about one million times.

Radium salts used as Medicines

It is used to treat:

  • High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
  • Rheumatism and gout (arthritis with severe pain, redness, and tenderness in joints)
  • arthritis
  • Pain, in cases of inoperable cancer
  • Tuberculosis (TB) of the lung
  • Diabetic neuritis (diabetic nerve damage)

During World War I

Curie recognized that those wounded soldiers were best served if operated upon as soon as possible. During World War I, Curie organized mobile X-ray teams with auxiliary generators, X-ray equipment, vehicles, and developed mobile radiography units, and It is estimated that over a million wounded soldiers were treated with her X-ray units.

Assisted at first by a military doctor and her daughter Irène, who is 17-year-old. In the first year of the war, Curie directed the installation of 20 mobile radiological vehicles and another 200 radiological units at field hospitals and later, she began training other women as aides.

Despite all her humanitarian contributions to the French war effort, Marie Curie never received any formal recognition of it from the French government.

Marie Curie during world war I

Honors and Tributes

  • In 1903, Nobel Prize in Physics (with her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel)
  • Davy Medal (with Pierre)
  • In 1904, Matteucci Medal (with Pierre)
  • In 1907, Actonian Prize
  • In 1909, Elliott Cresson Medal
  • In 1911, Nobel Prize in Chemistry
  • In 1921, Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society
  • In 1921, President Harding of the United States presented her with one gram of radium on behalf of the women of America in recognition of her service to science.
  • In 1929, Hoover (President United States) presented her with a gift of $ 50,000, donated by American friends of science, to purchase radium for use in the laboratory in Warsaw, Poland.
  • She worked on a book in her last year, Radioactivity, which was published posthumously in 1935.
  • In 1995, Marie Curie was the first woman to be honored with interment in the Panthéon on her own merits.

Madam Curie Death

Curie died at the Sancellemoz sanatorium died from aplastic anemia, a rare condition linked to high levels of exposure to radiation.

The ionizing radiation damaging effects were not known at the time of her work and these had been carried out without the safety measures. During World War I, Curie was also exposed to X-rays from unshielded equipment while serving as a radiologist in field hospitals, decades of exposure to radiation for many years caused chronic illnesses and ultimately all these lead to her death, she never really acknowledged the health risks of radiation exposure.

In 1995, Sixty years later, in honor of their achievements and discoveries, the remains of both were transferred to the Panthéon, Paris. Marie Curie was the first woman to be honored with interment in the Panthéon on her own merits.