Marie Curie was a pioneer in every way. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and become a professor at the University of Paris. In addition, she was also the first woman to be buried in the Panthéon in Paris. She is also the only woman to have won the Nobel Prize in various scientific disciplines.
Today, Marie Curie is probably one of the most famous scientists in the world. Her research into radioactivity paved the way for countless discoveries in the future. In this article we try to get to know one of the most important scientists of the twentieth century.
Marie Curie’s Early Life
Marie Curie was born Maria Skłodowska in Poland. She was the youngest of five children. Her parents were both teachers. From an early age, Maria followed in her father’s footsteps and showed great interest in mathematics and physics.
Faced with the daunting task of enrolling at the University of Warsaw, which at the time was only open to men, she held several temporary jobs.
Maria mainly worked as a governess to earn extra money that would help fund her sister’s education. In her spare time she continues to develop. She began her science training in a chemistry lab.
In 1891 Maria moves to France and enrolls at the Sorbonne Université. There she begins to use the name Marie. Due to financial difficulties, she has to give private lessons in the afternoon to earn some money.
In 1894 she met Pierre Curie of the Faculty of Science at the University of Paris. In 1895, Pierre and Marie married each other.
Her early achievements
Marie Curie is the most famous female physicist and chemist of all time. By 1897, Curie had already earned two university degrees and published an article on the magnetization of hardened steel.
By the time Irene, her first daughter, was born, Curie was already famous in the scientific and academic world. From that moment on, Marie Curie turned her attention to the mysterious uranium radiation that Antoine Henri Becquerel had described.
1904 sees the birth of her second daughter, Eva. Through her unwavering dedication and hard work, she managed to discover and cleanly isolate two elements: polonium and radium.
She developed techniques that enabled her to isolate radioactive isotopes. While these techniques could have made her very wealthy, she chose to share this knowledge for the good of humanity.
Her discoveries disproved the traditional ideas about matter and energy that scientists were convinced at the time. Curie was therefore not only responsible for the theorizing of the concept of radioactivity, but also for the concept of ‘radioactivity’.
From 1898 to 1902 she and her husband published about 32 scientific articles. They wrote detailed accounts of their work on radioactivity. In one of these papers, they found that tumor-forming cells (cancer cells) were destroyed faster than healthy cells when exposed to radioactivity.
Beyond the lab
In addition to her work in science, Marie Curie was responsible for establishing the first radiological centers in military camps. Her research was pivotal in the development of X-rays for patients requiring surgery.
During World War I, Marie Curie helped equip ambulances with X-rays. She also accompanied these ambulances to the front line. The International Committee of the Red Cross has appointed her head of the radiology service. In this position she was responsible for training in these new techniques.
Scientific merit despite unequal conditions
Despite her success, Marie still faced strong opposition from male scientists in France. In fact, she never received any significant economic benefits for her work. Inequality was the norm at the time, and the fact that she was one of the most brilliant scientists of her time didn’t change that.
On April 19, 1906, Pierre Curie was hit by a vehicle and died instantly. Two weeks later, his widow took over from her late husband’s position as president of the University of Paris.
As a result of her husband’s fatal accident , Curie was left alone with two small children and the enormous task of leading the radioactivity research. In 1908 she publishes her husband’s complete works and in 1910 publishes the enormous treatise on radioactivity.
Curie won her second Nobel Prize shortly after. Yet Curie doesn’t get the approval of the Academy of Sciences, who again deny her her membership.
Death and Legacy
In the late 1920s, her health began to deteriorate. Marie Curie died on July 4, 1934 of leukemia, caused by the radiation to which she was constantly exposed.
Initially, she is buried next to Pierre Curie in Sceaux. However, six decades later, her remains are transferred to the Panthéon in Paris. Her eldest daughter, Irene, followed in her footsteps and devoted her life to science, eventually winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Marie Curie has devoted her life to research and scientific discovery, which is why she has inspired women scientists from all over the world.