Marie curie was born on November 7th, 1867 in Poland. She was a teacher by profession and her an extraordinary mind. And intense curiosity led her to explore both the natural sciences as well as mathematics. In 1903 she and her husband Pierre, along with Henri Becquerel were awarded Nobel Prizes for their work in radioactivity. For this work, Marie was honored not only with a Nobel Prize. But also the first female professor of physics at the Sorbonne University in Paris.
About Marie Curie
Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist, who worked in Paris with her husband Pierre Curie. Their daughter Irene Joliot-Curie and their granddaughter Irène Joliot-Curie also undertook scientific research after their father’s death in 1906. The family is credited with the discovery of two elements, namely polonium and radium. They name after Marie Curie’s homeland of Poland. Which she later adopted as her surname in order to honor her Polish heritage. However, the family is well known for their contributions to the field of atomic physics. Marie Curie was born Maria Salomea Skłodowska on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland. To Władysław Skłodowski, an assistant teacher and chairman of a local school board. Who was in poor health at the time? The family struggled with poverty during her childhood, particularly due to her father’s poor health.
Life of Curie
Maria’s early life was marred with great difficulties and many hardships. Her first 5 years were spent under the care of her aunt, Józefa Skłodowska, at Warszawskie Przedmieście in Warsaw. Her father died on the 4th of April 1873. To cover the costs of medical fees and moving to a larger flat. Józefa took in boarders for some time and did embroidery work for neighbors.
Marie Skłodowska was a child of few words but with a strong will. She was deeply interested in the world around her. Curie loved books, childhood reading included fairy tales and adventure novels, and historical stories. She loved mathematics and physics, but she couldn’t decide on her future professional career in these subjects because they were so poorly taught in the Russian-controlled schools at that time.
Her personal life
In 1891, she married Pierre Curie in a civil ceremony. They shared mutual interests, similar personalities, and strong work ethics. Pierre was a professor of physics and chemistry at the French College in Warsaw, Poland (now known as the University of Warsaw), at that time. In December 1891 she gave birth to their daughter Irène Curie-Joliot (1897–1956).
In 1894 she moved to Paris, France, with Pierre Curie and took up a position as a teacher at the Sorbonne University. In 1896 they separated, and she moved alone to Paris in 1897 where she taught physics at Henri Becquerel College.
It was on 5 August 1900 that Marie held her first independent research lecture in honor of Pierre’s research on the nature of nitric acid. This lecture led to her being offered a temporary position as an assistant professor at the University of Paris in 1903, which she accepted.
In 1903 she and her husband worked on separating two elements by radioactive decay. One of these, radium, had not been isolated before. It was discovered to be a new element – a substance that did not exist in nature before. Marie and Pierre coined the name “Radium” from the Latin word for rays or “radi” which was a reference to the fact that it came from radium ore.
With the support of the French Ministry of Education, Marie Curie succeeded in raising funds for herself, Pierre, and Henri Becquerel’s research on uranium rays, by popularizing the purchase of what were thought to be radium waters.
She was award the Nobel Prize in Physics (award jointly with Pierre) for her 1903 work on radioactivity. She was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and she remains to this day the only woman to have received two Nobel Prizes – one awarded jointly with her husband.
Life in Paris
After winning two Nobel Prizes for radioactivity, Marie was appoint to a full professorship at the University of Paris (Sorbonne). In 1911 she undertook the directorship of an Institute which she created at the Radium Institute of the University of Paris, a post she held until her death.
The Curies’ institute in Paris was open in 1914. It was in this very institute that Marie discovered polonium and radium, while Pierre discovered radium.
The family was also involve in efforts to improve the health of people living in France during World War I. When the Allies invaded Paris, they offered shelter to many refugees from Belgium and Germany. Marie Curie built homes for disabled soldiers and victims of gas attacks. In 1917, the Curies fled Paris together with their daughter Irene for Switzerland.
Rise of radioactivity
During this time, Marie Curie did much research on radioactivity, especially into the causes and means of nuclear fission – what we now call splitting an atom. Pierre agreed that if she could prove that radioactivity was the cause of radioactivity, then they would publish their findings and all but guarantee their own demise. He confirmed her results, but they only published some of his research after his death in 1906.
Marie and Pierre also discovered two new elements, polonium, and radium. In 1898, Marie was working with pure uranium compounds in her laboratory experiments. She grew increasingly worried about how dangerous the large amount of pure uranium she was handling was to herself, so she gave some of the pure forms to her friend, physicist Henri Becquerel (1852–1908) who had long been experimenting with this material. At that point, they did not know what the new element they were looking for was call.
The Curies isolated one-half gram of radium (about a quarter of a teaspoonful). In 1910, Marie and her daughter, Irene Curie (1897–1956), shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. Marie’s name had been mention in connection with the prize in 1908, but it was not until 1911 that she was officially nominate.
World War I
In 1916, France invade and occupy by the Germans. The Curies fled to Switzerland, but they could not stay there very long as they became “enemy aliens” as soon as the war declare. They are eventually force to return to France where they discover that their laboratory destroys in their absence.
They were able to rebuild it and continued research. When World War II ended the German army marched into Paris in 1944 and looted their Institute. Marie died in her sleep in 1934 shortly after a fall at the age of 67 years old.
Throughout her life, Marie Curie was a strong advocate for women’s rights. She believed that a woman’s personal life should not prohibit them from studying and working in their chosen field. A woman should have the right to choose the kind of work they want. And they should be given the same opportunities in education and employment as men, she said.
She died at age 67 in 1934, in Paris, France.
Awards and honor
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (1903). And along with Henri Becquerel and her husband Pierre Curie, she won the Nobel Prize in Physics (1911). Lady Muriel Wragge, whose family were friends of the Curies, said that Marie was “the greatest woman in the world”. Marie Curie’s scientific breakthroughs had a huge impact on science. Therefore, she credit with laying the foundation for the nuclear age by discovering radium and polonium.