From 1912 to 1926, over 100 tonnes of crystals of radioactive minerals were shipped from Madagascar to France. The enterprise involved three important people: the indefatigable Professor Alfred Lacroix, who discovered these minerals in material donated to museum collections, the doctor and heir to family fortunes, Henri de Rothschild, who funded a refinery to treat them, and the scientist and humanitarian, Mme Marie Curie, who researched the product of this refinery, namely radium. First intended for medical purposes, in World War I, radium from Madagascar crystals was mainly used to illuminate dials in armored vehicles. After Armistice, it was employed in cancer treatment and research. However, in the 1920s, owing to access to more easily processed ore, the commodity price fell, along with France's import of crystals. By the end of 1926, after a fifteen-year struggle, the once-promising experiment failed; mining and shipment of radioactive crystals ceased.

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