Happy birthday Marie Curie!

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Marie Curie (November 7, 1867—July 4, 1934) was a Polish-born French physicist and chemist. She won two Nobel Prizes, the first woman to win one at all, to win in two fields, and to win in multiple sciences. She is remembered for her work on radioactivity and for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium.

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Curie was born Maria Salomea Skłodowska in Warsaw, Poland to Bronisława and Władysław Skłodowski. Her parents were teachers and Polish nationalists, their political leanings getting them into financial and social trouble. Her father taught math and physics, and after the Russian authorities took labs out of the education system, he brought the equipment home to teach his children on. Curie's mother died of tuberculosis when she was just 12 years old.

Curie was always good in school, eventually graduating from a gymnasium with a gold medal in 1883. However, at some point in her early adulthood, she collapsed, leading to her taking a year in the countryside with her relatives. She and her sister, Bronislawa, began attending classes with the "Floating University," an underground university, as they were unable to attend the men-only University of Warsaw.3428402_640px

In 1890, Bronislawa asked Curie if she'd like to join her and her new husband in Paris. Though it took Curie a year and a half to gather the money to go, she eventually did. During that period, she continued to read books, study at the Floating University, and even get some practical training at the labs of the Museum of Industry and Agriculture in Warsaw. She also worked as a governess during this time.

In 1891, she went to Paris and enrolled at the University of Paris. There, she eventually earned a masters degree in physics and another in mathematics. (Image source)

After being offered space in a lab to do work on a project she had been commissioned on, she was introduced to French physicist Pierre Curie. Soon, the two were romantically involved, and it wasn't long before they became professionally involved as well. They went on to have two daughters.

She began working with uranium rays and before long, discovered that they came from the element's atomic structure. This idea was revolutionary, paving the way for studies of radioactivity in atomic physics for years to come.

Soon, the two discovered a new element which they named polonium, after Curie's native land. This was followed by their discovery of radium not long after.

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In 1903, Curie became the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize in physics along with her husband and Henri Becquerel for their work on radioactivity.

In 1906, Pierre Curie was killed when he stepped in front of a horse-drawn carriage. Marie Curie then took over his teach position at the Sorbonne, becoming the school's first female professor.

She won another Nobel Prize in 1911, for her discovery of polonium and radium.

When World War I hit, she advocated the use of portable X-ray machines in the field. They came to be called "little Curies."

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Curie was known to carry test tubes of radium around in her pocket. Her heavy exposure to radiation most likely contributed to her death. She and her husband were interred at the Panthéon in Paris, making her the only woman to be interred there.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Friday, 07 November 2014
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