X rays in War

Didn’t think I could find an X word relating to one of my favorite topics of pirates, spies, war, or Scotland, did you? Ha! I’m about to prove you wrong, but first I have to give a big thanks to my friend Kathy who suggested it to me.


In 1895, x-rays were discovered and quickly put into use by military surgeons with the help of Marie Curie. She realized that broken bones, bullets, and shrapnel were much easier to find with these handy-dandy pictures so she raised money for radiology equipment and convinced manufacturers to turn autos into mobile units the boys called ‘petite Curies’ and headed out to the front with her anatomy books, 17 year old daughter, and a military doctor in tow.

x ray cart

One of the biggest limitations for x-rays was the need for electricity. How are you supposed to find that on a battlefield? Easy. With a motor , a few cables, and an inductor. Now, I don’t know how that works, but it did and saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. Something so costly and useful could never fall into the enemy’s hands. The last thing you want is for the enemy to get all patched up before your own troops so their safety was ferociously guarded. By the way, it’s called X because at the time of discovery, their nature was unknown. Thank goodness we now know the amazing life-saving possibilities they tell us.

A to Z blog hop at Patterings.


  1. Kathleen Rouser

    You’re welcome, J’nell. Thanks for the link back to my blog.

    I enjoyed your post and again, you’ve shown how a woman pioneered in battlefield medical care. One of my favorite parts of dental assisting is taking dental radiographs. Though I don’t get to do it often these days, it feels like an accomplishment to help the dentist in his/her diagnosis with a well-taken x-ray picture! I can see why they were considered invaluable in the medical treatment of injured soldiers.

    1. J'nell (Post author)

      I just discovered how to do links in my posts so now I do it as much as possible. I had no idea Marie Curie had a hand in this! Why isn’t it talked about more?!

      1. Jo

        She was a genius in the times when women meant nothing. As woman, she wasn’t even allowed to give the lecture on her own research when she won her first Nobel Prize in 1903. Women’ s rights movement didn’t start until 1908 in Europe, a year later she won her second Nobel prize. It’s a shame that not much is known about her in US, although she’s extremely well known and respected in her native Poland, where I came from, hence my comment. It would be so much easier for her to be a scientist a century later with our communication devices. This only shows how much ahead of time Marie was, discovering all these amazing things – radioactivity, polon, radium, inventing the military radiology vehicles, etc.
        Anyway, thanks for the post!

  2. Lisa Betz

    Thanks for another fascinating tidbit. It sounds like they took gasoline-powered engines, which they had plenty of, and used the power output to run a generator (this is where the inductor came in) to produce the electricity. (By the way, engines are gas-powered and motors are electric-powered, so I suspect they started with an engine, not a motor.)
    We owe more technical and medical innovations to the military than we realize. Nothing like great need to motivate innovation.

    1. J'nell (Post author)

      I totally just got schooled! Ha! As you can tell, I’m not really mechanically minded. Without proper motivation we wouldn’t have the drive to better our circumstances.


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