The invention of the mobile X-ray

One of the key medical developments in the years before the outbreak of the First World War was undoubtedly the invention of the X-Ray, a way to identify metal objects and broken bones within the human body without the need of an operation.

As you can imagine, when it came to war in 1914, the X-Ray was a very useful tool, but one that was only able to be used in hospitals some distance away from the battlefield.

Renowned French-Polish scientist Marie Curie changed all that.

Madame Curie realised that in order to save more lives, she needed X-Ray machines much closer to the front lines and so devised the world’s first ‘Mobile X-Ray’ machines.

By installing equipment in vans and using the petrol engine to generate electricity, then recruiting staff, raising money and providing training to more than 150 female operators, she was able to operate a fleet of vans, known as ‘Petite Curies’ (Little Curies) which could move far closer to the front than their static counterparts.

Pierre and Marie Curie

Not only were the women who staffed these vehicles required to know the details of their operation in medical terms, they also had to train as mechanics; learning how to repair engines, change spare tyres and of course drive vehicles, often within range of enemy guns.

This invention significantly shortened the amount of time between a soldier being wounded in battle and being operated on, resulting in many lives being saved.

Today the X-Ray is a common feature in hospitals and mobile X-Rays can still be found in many places across the globe.


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