The Radium Girls
Around the turn of the 20th century, scientific advancements occurred at a record pace. From Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetic waves to Einstein’s theories of relativity, long-standing mysteries of the universe were revealed. Medical discoveries also progressed feverishly. Countless lives were saved because of the practice of using antiseptics during surgery. The theory of germs gave us a greater understanding into the transmission of disease. Vaccines for cholera, anthrax, rabies, tetanus, diphtheria, typhoid fever, pertussis, tuberculosis, the plague, and many others were developed. In 1901, the ABO system of blood typing was successfully used for safer transfusions. Felix Hoffman developed aspirin from willow tree bark. The discovery of X-rays revolutionized diagnostic medicine, and the theory of radioactivity was proposed by Marie and Pierre Curie. An optimistic future lay ahead, but instead of cautiously navigating through this new field of radioactivity, arrogance and greed blazed the trail. Such is the story of the Radium Girls.