Irène was born in France in 1897, when her mother was 30 years old. Irène’s mathematical talent became apparent at a very young age, and her parents made sure to adapt her education and steer her in a promising direction. When the First War broke out, however, Irène’s studies at the Faculty of Science at the Sorbonne were interrupted.
During the first year of the war, Marie Curie decided to head to France to supervise the setup of 20 mobile radiography vehicles (which became known as ‘petites Curies’), in addition to a large number of radiology units at field hospitals. Despite being only 17, Irène begged her mother to take her along, which Marie eventually agreed to.
After a short nursing course, during which Irène learned the basics in radiology, she joined her mother at the front line where they ran the mobile field hospitals together. Due to the significant lack of trained staff, Marie and Irène also trained over 180 young women as aides, teaching them how to operate the X-ray units that could help doctors detect shrapnel in injured soldiers.
In December 1914, Marie and Irène first visited the Belgian city of Veurne together, and a year later Irène was put in charge of the radiology department of a hospital in Hoogstade. Irène also worked in various French hospitals during the war, including in Amiens at the time of the Battle of the Somme. Letters between mother and daughter dating from these years illustrate how close the two were.
Story created on February 5, 2014