Marie Curie Nicole Hewitt Scientist Project Teena Garland February 24, 2010
Growing up… Marie experienced tragedy at a very young age, when she first lost her sister Zofia to typhus and later, suffered from the death of her mother, from tuberculosis. Following these events, she lost faith in her Roman Catholic religion and become an agnostic. Before her death, her mother ran a school for girls and her father was a teacher of mathematics and physics. From childhood Marie was remarkable for her prodigious memory, and at the age of 16 she won a gold medal on completion of her secondary education at the Russian lycée. Because her father, a teacher of mathematics and physics, lost his savings through bad investment, she had to take work as a teacher and, at the same time, took part stealthily in the nationalist “free university,” reading in Polish to women workers. Standing is Marie Curie and sitting is her sister Bronislawa.
Continued… Though Marie was a brilliant student, her gender as well as the Russian reprisals, following Polish 1863 uprising against Tsarist Russia, resulted in her admission being denied by a regular university. She attended Warsaw's illegal Polish Floating University, while working as a teacher alongside, in order to support her family financially. At the age of 18, she also worked as a governess for sometime, during which she went through an unhappy love affair with the family’s older son. She used the money earned from her jobs to support her sisters medical study in Paris.
Education… In 1891 Manya went to Paris and started to use the name Marie. Marie worked into the night in her student-quarters garret and virtually lived on bread, butter and tea. She came first in the Licence of physical sciences in 1893. She began to work in Lippmann's research laboratory and in 1894 was placed second in the Licence of mathematical sciences. The Sorbonne University
Life… It was in the spring of that year that she met Pierre Curie. Their marriage (July 25, 1895) marked the start of a partnership that was soon to achieve results of world significance. In particular the discovery of polonium in the summer of 1898 and that of radium a few months later. Marie and Pierre had two daughters, Irène and Ève, in 1897 and 1904, but this still did not interrupt Marie's intensive scientific work. Pierre's life ended tragically on April 19, 1906, when he slipped and fell in the street. His head was crushed under the wheel of a horse-drawn car. Marie took over his classes and continued her own research. It was the first time that a woman would hold an important university research position. Pierre and Marie on their honeymoon in 1895. Marie with her two daughters.
Accomplishments Marie Curie struggled to obtain pure radium in the metallic state, but with the results of this research, Marie Curie received her doctorate of science in June 1903 and, with Pierre, was awarded the Davy Medal of the Royal Society. Also in 1903 they shared with Becquerel the Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of radioactivity. On May 13, 1906, she was appointed to the professorship that had been left vacant on her husband's death; she was the first woman to teach in the Sorbonne. In 1908 she became titular professor, and in 1910 her fundamental treatise on radioactivity was published. In 1911 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, for the isolation of pure radium. She is one of only two people to be awarded a Nobel Prize in two different fields. To add to it, Marie is also the only woman to have won two Nobel Prizes and the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in two different science fields.
She became head of the Paris Institute of Radium in 1914 and helped found the Curie Institute. Marie Curie, at the highest point of her fame in 1922, a member of the Academy of Medicine, devoted her researches to the study of the chemistry of radioactive substances and the medical applications of these substances. She was made a member of the International Commission on Intellectual Co-operation by the Council of the League of Nations.
Fighting Against Prejudices In 1905, election took place for membership to French Academy of Sciences. Marie lost by just one vote, mainly because of the academy’s prejudice against women. She won the Nobel Prize again in 1911, but rumors and gossip surround the award: many jealous scientists snipe that she has been awarded the Nobel Prize only out of pity, since her husband, Pierre, has recently died, while others alleged that she is "morally unfit" to receive the prize because of an affair with a married man, Paul Langevin, a long time family friend and a student of Pierre's. When word of the affair reached the public, it nearly destroyed Marie's career and public standing in the scientific community. When the scandal broke, no one in the physics community supported Marie. Earlier in the year, the Swedish Academy informed Marie that she would again receive the Nobel Prize. When letters to Paul were published in a newspaper in Paris, the Academy told her that they did not want her to come to the public ceremony in Stockholm. Marie defied their wishes and went to the ceremony. Eventually, her honor and reputation were restored.
Promoting Her Cause Curie throughout her life actively promoted the use of radium to alleviate suffering and during World War I, assisted by her daughter, Irene, she personally devoted herself to this remedial work by, working as an "X-ray technician," teaching radiological technology, and equipping mobile X-ray vans to assist in the war effort. During World War I, she also encouraged the use of mobile radiography units, known as petites Curies ("Little Curies"), for the treatment of wounded soldiers. The Curie’s pioneering work on the effects of radium on living organisms showed it could damage tissue, and this discovery was put to use against cancer and other diseases.
Overview… Marie Curie is one of the most famous scientists that ever lived. Her contributions such as the discovery of Radium and other key elements help us out every day, especially when getting an x-ray. In 1934 at the age of 67, she died from leukemia, thought to have been from research. Marie would lead an exciting life receiving 15 gold medal awards, 19 degrees, and many other honors. Mary Curie has opened a lot of doors for the young women today.
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