Healing the World
Marie Curie became aware that the rays coming from radioactive elements could be used to treat tumors. She and Pierre decided not to patent the medical applications of radium, and so could not profit from it.In her later years, Marie Curies dearest wish was to explore the use of radioactivity in medical applications. To do this, she established the Radium Institute.At $120,000 per gram, radium was horrendously expensive millions of dollars in todays money. Marie Curie could only afford 1 gram of it for use in cancer therapies at the Radium Institute.In 1920, Marie gave an interview about her work at the Radium Institute to the American journalist Marie Mattingly Meloney, who was usually called Missy.
Missy asked Marie how she could help the Institute. Marie said that American chemical companies had now isolated 50 grams of radium. Her Institute desperately needed one more gram for medical research, but could not afford it.Missy returned to the USA and became Chair of the Marie Curium Radium Fund, with the aim of getting Marie Curie her 1 gram of radium. Money was raised in small donations all over the country. The Standard Chemical Company of Pittsburgh agreed to supply the radium at the reduced price of $100,000.On May 20th, 1921, President Warren G. Harding presented Marie with the radium in a lead lined steel box at the White House.Since then, the Radium Institute (it is now the called the Curie Institute) has gone from strength to strength. Three of its workers have been awarded Nobel Prizes Irene and Frederic Joliot Curie won the chemistry prize in 1935 and Pierre Gilles de Gennes won the physics prize in 1991. Irene was Marie and Pierres daughter. She shared the prize with her husband Frederic. The Curie Institute continues to do important research work today.