In October 1914, Marie Curie and her daughter, Irène, were driving a rickety van near a First World War battlefield in France.
The two women were surrounded by the military – soldiers, officers, medics and the wounded. But they were meant to be there. Just two months after the war started, Marie had convinced the French government to set up the country’s first military radiology centres. She was soon named director of the Red Cross Radiology Service in France.
Their van was the world’s first specially fitted mobile x-ray unit, and marked the first time x-rays were taken for medical use outside of a hospital.
By the end of the war, each of the 20 mobile x-ray vans – known by soldiers as petites Curies (little Curies) had x-rayed up to 10,000 men. The quick information they gave the battlefield medics saved thousands of lives.