Some of the greatest medical advancements in the modern age involve the use of many different types of radiation. Radiation therapy is used in treating multiple different types of cancer, and radiation from certain elements are put in X-ray tubes to save countless lives and prevent permanent injury wherever possible. Many organisations also use it for security, as well as the general use in the everyday home. These advancements and many more were based on the work of Marie Curie, renowned female physics researcher. To make a list of people that changed the world for the better we need a way to separate the great, from the truly amazing. One important factor is that they helped people in their time period, and this is made more impressive if they sacrificed themselves to do this. Their work needs to still be felt today, either directly through their efforts, or from advances that have built on what they started. Finally, if the person has been recognised for other awards then that obviously bolsters their position as they have already proven to others that they are worthy of recognition.
To change the world for the better, you must do something that helps people. Curie spent all of her working life developing technologies that were used in medicine, directly helping the people around her. She focused most of her energies on discovering, and then researching the properties of Radium and Polonium1. The properties of these elements, Radium in particular, were used to burn away diseased cells in the body2, which we now know to include cancer. As well as this, she also helped make X-Rays more accessible and discovered further ways in which they could be used. This is demonstrated in the work Curie did with her eldest daughter during WWI, setting up 20 mobile X-ray units3 and teaching people how to operate them, as well as taking their own unit to the Western Front. Throughout the war over 1 million people were X-rayed, helping doctors save lives and prevent people from being permanently maimed. In her later life Curie was the director of the Radium Institute in Paris. She recognised that science had become a more specialised field and organised the laboratory with this in mind. It was a major institute devoted to the study of radium and its properties, but it did so by separating scientists into small groups that focused their energies on a particular aspect of radiology. These efforts increased the rate of new innovations and increased our overall knowledge of radiation’s uses and dangers.
It is these dangers that constitute part of her posthumous bid for this title. While not essential to be a person who changed the world for the good, if you put yourself through difficult trials and tribulations society puts your efforts in higher regard, as others are less likely to do so. For example, many people would say that although Bill Gates helped the world with the advent of Microsoft, but for all of his contributions the world values him less because of the wealth he has accumulated. In complete contrast to this, the research Curie did that has helped billions of people over the years since her discoveries ended up killing her. Her death in itself helped people, as she was likely the first person to die from radiation poisoning it became apparent that these elements could be dangerous in high dosages and adequate care must be taken. While it cannot be denied that she won a substantial amount of money from receiving two Nobel prizes as well as other awards she put this back into her research as can be observed through her campaigning to receive funds so she could afford another gram of radium for her research4.
During the first World War Marie Curie created a real use for the more reliable and effective X-tubes she had developed. To help fund these 20 lifesaving devices, Curie sold off the gold Nobel prize medals she and her husband won4. After they were sent to the Front it became apparent that the medical staff were not...
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