Marie CurieFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaFor other uses, see Marie Curie (disambiguation). Marie Curie Marie Curie, ca. 1920 Born Maria SalomeaSkłodowska 7 November 1867 Warsaw, Kingdom of Poland, then part of Russian Empire Died 4 July 1934 (aged 66) Passy, Haute-Savoie, France Residence Poland, France Citizenship Poland (by birth) France (by marriage) Fields Physics, chemistry
Institutions University of Paris Alma mater University of Paris ESPCI Doctoral Henri Becquerel advisor Doctoral André-Louis Debierne students Óscar Moreno Marguerite Catherine Perey Known for Radioactivity, polonium, radium Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1903) Davy Medal (1903) Matteucci Medal (1904) Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1911) Spouse Pierre Curie (1859–1906) Signature Notes She is the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences. She was the mother of Irène Joliot-Curie andÈve Curie.Marie Skłodowska-Curie, often referred to as Marie Curie, (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) was aPolish physicist and chemist, working mainly in France, who is famous for her pioneering researchon radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the onlyperson to win in multiple sciences. She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris (LaSorbonne), and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in Paris Panthéon.She was born Maria SalomeaSkłodowska (pronounced [ˈmarjasal ˈm askwɔ ˈd fska]) in Warsaw, in what ɔ ɛ ɔwas then the Kingdom of Poland. She studied at Warsaws clandestine Floating University and began herpractical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her older sister Bronisława to study inParis, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. She shared her
1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre Curie and with physicist Henri Becquerel. She was thesole winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.Her achievements included a theory of radioactivity (a term that she coined), techniques for isolatingradioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two elements, polonium andradium. Under her direction, the worldsfirst studies were conducted into the treatment ofneoplasms, using radioactive isotopes. She founded the CurieInstitutes in Paris and in Warsaw, which remain major centres of medical research today. During World War I,she established the first military field radiological centres.While a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska-Curie (she used both surnames) never lost her sense of Polishidentity. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named thefirst chemical element that she discovered – polonium, which she first isolated in 1898 – after her nativecountry.[a]Curie died in 1934 of aplastic anemia brought on by her years of exposure to radiation. Contents [hide]1 Biography o 1.1 Early years o 1.2 New life in Paris o 1.3 New elements o 1.4 Nobel Prizes o 1.5 World War I o 1.6 Postwar years o 1.7 Death2 Legacy3 Awards, honours and tributes4 Notes5 References6 Further reading o 6.1 Nonfiction o 6.2 Fiction7 See also8 External linksBiography
Early yearsBirthplace on ulicaFreta in Warsaws "New Town" – now home to the Maria Skłodowska-Curie MuseumMaria Skłodowska was born in Warsaw, in the Russian partition of Poland, on 7 November 1867, the fifth andyoungest child of well-known teachers Bronisława and WładysławSkłodowski.Marias older siblings were Zofia(born 1862), Józef (1863), Bronisława (1865) and Helena (1866).WładysławSkłodowski with daughters (from left) Maria, Bronisława, Helena, 1890On both the paternal and maternal sides, the family had lost their property and fortunes through patrioticinvolvements in Polish national uprisings aiming at the restoration of Polands independence (most recent ofwhich was the January Uprising of 1863–1864). This condemned the subsequent generation, including Maria,her elder sisters and her brother, to a difficult struggle to get ahead in life.Marias paternal grandfather JózefSkłodowski had been a respected teacher in Lublin, where he taught theyoung BolesławPrus, who would become one of the leading figures in the history of Polish literature.  Herfather WładysławSkłodowski taught mathematics and physics, subjects that Maria was to pursue, and was also
director of two Warsaw gymnasia for boys. After Russian authorities eliminated laboratory instruction from thePolish schools, he brought much of the lab equipment home, and instructed his children in its use.  He waseventually fired by the Russian supervisors for pro-Polish sentiments, and forced to take lower paying posts;the family also lost money on a bad investment, and eventually chose to supplement the income by lodgingboys in their house. Marias mother Bronisława operated a prestigious Warsaw boarding school for girls; sheresigned from the position after Maria was born. She died from tuberculosis when Maria was twelve. Mariasfather was an atheist; her mother—a devout Catholic. Two years before the death of her mother, Mariasoldest sibling, Zofia, had died of typhus. The deaths of her mother and sister caused Maria to give upCatholicism and become agnostic.When she was ten years old, Maria began attending the boarding school of J. Sikorska; next Maria attendeda gymnasium for girls, from which she graduated on 12 June 1883 with a gold medal. After a collapse,possibly due to depression, she spent the following year in the countryside with relatives of her father, and thenext with her father in Warsaw, where she did some tutoring.Unable to enroll in a higher education institutiondue to being a female, she and her sister Bronisława became involved with the Flying University, a clandestineteaching institution, teaching a pro-Polish curriculum in defiance of the Russian authorities, and also willing toadmit female students.Maria made an agreement with her sister, Bronisława, that she would give her financial assistance duringBronisławas medical studies in Paris, in exchange for similar assistance two years later. In connection withthis, Maria took a position as governess: first as a home tutor in Warsaw; then for two years as a governessin Szczuki with a landed family, the Żorawskis, who were relatives of her father. While working for the latterfamily, she fell in love with their son, KazimierzŻorawski, a future eminent mathematician. His parentsrejected the idea of his marrying the penniless relative, and Kazimierz was unable to oppose them. Mariasloss of the relationship with Żorawski was tragic for both. He soon earned a doctorate and pursued anacademic career as a mathematician, becoming a professor and rector of Kraków University. Still, as an oldman and a mathematics professor at theWarsaw Polytechnic, he would sit contemplatively before the statue ofMaria Skłodowska which had been erected in 1935 before theRadium Institute that she had founded in1932.At the beginning of 1890, Bronisława, a few months after she married KazimierzDłuski, a physician and socialand political activist, invited Maria to join them in Paris. Maria declined because she could not afford theuniversity tuition; it would take her a year and a half longer to gather the necessary funds. She was helped byher father, who was able to secure a more lucrative position again.All that time she continued to educateherself, reading books, exchanging letters, and being tutored herself. In early 1889 she returned home to herfather in Warsaw. She continued working as a governess, and remained there till late 1891.  She tutored,studied at the Flying University, and began her practical scientific training (1890–91) in a chemical laboratory atthe Museum of Industry and Agriculture at KrakowskiePrzedmieście 66, near Warsaws Old Town. The
laboratory was run by her cousin JózefBoguski, who had been an assistant in Saint Petersburg to the Russianchemist Dmitri Mendeleev.New life in ParisAt a Warsaw lab, in 1890–91, Maria Skłodowska did her first scientific work.In late 1891 she left Poland for France. In Paris, Maria (or Marie, as she would be known in France) brieflyfound shelter with her sister and brother-in-law before renting a garret closer to the university, in the LatinQuarter, and proceeding with her studies of physics, chemistry and mathematics at the Sorbonne (theUniversity of Paris), where she enrolled in late 1891. She subsisted on her meager resources, sufferingfrom cold winters and occasionally fainting from hunger.Marie studied during the day and tutored evenings, barely earning her keep. In 1893 she was awarded adegree in physics and began work in an industrial laboratory of Professor Gabriel Lippmann. Meanwhile shecontinued studying at the Sorbonne, and with the aid of a fellowship she was able to earn a second degree in1894.[b]Marie had begun her scientific career in Paris with an investigation of the magnetic properties of various steels,commissioned by the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry (Sociétédencouragement pourlindustrienationale). That same year Pierre Curie entered her life; it was their mutual interest in naturalsciences that drew them together. Pierre was an instructor at the School of Physics and Chemistry,the Écolesupérieure de physique et de chimieindustrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI). They were introducedby Professor JózefWierusz-Kowalski, who had learned that Marie was looking for a larger laboratory space,something that Wierusz-Kowalski thought Pierre had access to. Though Pierre did not have a largelaboratory, he was able to find some space for Marie where she was able to begin work.
Their mutual passion for science brought them increasingly closer, and they began to develop feelings for oneanother. Eventually Pierre proposed marriage, but at first Marie did not accept as she was still planning togo back to her native country. Pierre, however, declared that he was ready to move with her to Poland, evenif meant being reduced to teaching French. Meanwhile, for the 1894 summer break, Marie returned toWarsaw, where she visited her family. She was still laboring under the illusion that she would be able to workin her chosen field in Poland, but she was denied a place at Kraków University because she was a woman. Aletter from Pierre convinced her to return to Paris to pursue a PhD. At Maries insistence, Pierre had writtenup his research onmagnetism and received his own doctorate in March 1895; he was also promoted toprofessor at the School. A contemporary quip would call Marie, "Pierres biggest discovery." On 26 July thatyear, they married in a civil union; neither wanted a religious service. Maries dark blue outfit, worn insteadof a bridal grown, would serve her for many years as a lab outfit. They shared two pastimes: long bicycletrips, and journeys abroad, which brought them even closer. In Pierre, Marie had found a new love, a partner,and a scientific collaborator on whom she could depend.New elementsPierre and Marie Curie in the laboratoryIn 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen discovered the existence of X-rays, though the mechanism behind their productionwas not yet understood. In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium salts emitted rays thatresembled X-rays in their penetrating power. He demonstrated that this radiation, unlike phosphorescence,did not depend on an external source of energy, but seemed to arise spontaneously from uraniumitself. Marie decided to look into uranium rays as a possible field of research for a thesis. She used aninnovative technique to investigate samples. Fifteen years earlier, her husband and his brother had developeda version of the electrometer, a sensitive device for measuring electrical currents. Using Pierreselectrometer, she discovered that uranium rays caused the air around a sample to conduct electricity.  Usingthis technique, her first result was the finding that the activity of the uranium compounds depended only on thequantity of uranium present. She had hypothesized that the radiation was not the outcome of someinteraction of molecules, but must come from the atom itself. This hypothesis was an important step indisproving the ancient assumption that atoms were indivisible.
In 1897, her daughter Irène was born. To support the family, Marie begun teaching atthe ÉcoleNormaleSupérieure. The Curies did not have a dedicated laboratory; most of their research wascarried in a converted shed next to the School of Physics and Chemistry. The shed, formerly a medicalschool dissecting room, was poorly ventilated and not even waterproof. As they were unaware of thedeleterious effects of radiation exposure attendant on their chronic unprotected work with radioactivesubstances, Marie and her husband had no idea what price they would pay for the effect of their research upontheir health. The School did not sponsor her research, but she would receive some subsidies frommetallurgical and mining companies, and various organizations and governments.Maries systematic studies had included two uranium minerals, pitchblende and torbernite (also known aschalcolite). Her electrometer showed that pitchblende was four times as active as uranium itself, andchalcolite twice as active. She concluded that, if her earlier results relating the quantity of uranium to its activitywere correct, then these two minerals must contain small quantities of some other substance that was far moreactive than uranium. She began a systematic search for additional substances that emit radiation and by1898, she discovered that the element thorium was also radioactive.Pierre was increasingly intrigued by her work. By mid-1898, he was so invested in it that he decided to drop hiswork on crystals and to join her.The [research] idea [writes Reid] was her own; no one helped her formulate it, and although she took it to herhusband for his opinion she clearly established her ownership of it. She later recorded the fact twice in herbiography of her husband to ensure there was no chance whatever of any ambiguity. It [is] likely that already atthis early stage of her career [she] realized that... many scientists would find it difficult to believe that a womancould be capable of the original work in which she was involved.Pierre, Irène, Marie CurieShe was acutely aware of the importance of promptly publishing her discoveries and thus establishingher priority. Had not Becquerel, two years earlier, presented his discovery to the Académie des Sciences theday after he made it, credit for the discovery of radioactivity, and even a Nobel Prize, would have goneto Silvanus Thompson instead. Marie chose the same rapid means of publication. Her paper, giving a brief and
simple account of her work, was presented for her to the Académie on 12 April 1898 by her formerprofessor, Gabriel Lippmann. Even so, just as Thompson had been beaten by Becquerel, so Marie wasbeaten in the race to tell of her discovery that thorium gives off rays in the same way as uranium. Two monthsearlier, Gerhard Schmidt had published his own finding in Berlin.At that time, no one else in the world of physics had noticed what Marie recorded in a sentence of her paper,describing how much greater were the activities of pitchblende and chalcolite than uranium itself: "The fact isvery remarkable, and leads to the belief that these minerals may contain an element which is much more activethan uranium." She later would recall how she felt "a passionate desire to verify this hypothesis as rapidly aspossible." On 14 April 1898, the Curies optimistically weighed out a 100-gram sample of pitchblende andground it with a pestle and mortar. They did not realize at the time that what they were searching for waspresent in such minute quantities that they would eventually have to process tons of the ore.In July 1898, Marie and her husband published a paper together, announcing the existence of an elementwhich they named "polonium", in honour of her native Poland, which would for another twenty years remainpartitioned among three empires that claimed it a century before. On 26 December 1898, the Curiesannounced the existence of a second element, which they named "radium" for its intense radioactivity – a wordthat they coined.To prove their discoveries beyond any doubt, the Curies had undertaken to isolate polonium and radium into itspure components.Pitchblende is a complex mineral. The chemical separation of its constituents was anarduous task. The discovery of polonium had been relatively easy; chemically it resembles theelement bismuth, and polonium was the only bismuth-like substance in the ore. Radium, however, was moreelusive. It is closely related, chemically, to barium, and pitchblende contains both elements. By 1898, theCuries had obtained traces of radium, but appreciable quantities, uncontaminated with barium, were stillbeyond reach. The Curies undertook the arduous task of separating out radium salt bydifferential crystallization. From a ton of pitchblende, one-tenth of a gram of radium chloride was separated in1902. In 1910, Marie isolated pure radium metal. She never succeeded in isolating polonium, which hasa half-life of only 138 days.In 1900, Marie became the first woman faculty member at the ÉcoleNormaleSupérieure, and Pierre joined theSorbonnes faculty. In 1902, she visited Poland on the occasion of her fathers death. In June 1903,supervised by Henri Becquerel, Marie was awarded her doctorate from the University of Paris. Thatmonth, she and Pierre were invited to the Royal Institution in London to give a speech on radioactivity; beingfemale, she was prevented from speaking, and Pierre alone was allowed to.Meanwhile, a new industrybegan developing based on radium. The Curies did not patent their discovery and benefited little from thisincreasingly profitable business.Nobel Prizes
1903In December 1903, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Pierre Curie, Marie Curie and HenriBecquerel the Nobel Prize in Physics, "in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by theirjoint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel." At first, theCommittee intended to honour only Pierre and Henri, but one of the committee members and an advocate ofwoman scientists, Swedish mathematician Magnus GoestaMittag-Leffler, alerted Pierre to the situation, andafter his complaint, Maries name was added to the nomination. Marie was the first woman to be awarded aNobel Prize.Marie and her husband declined to go to Stockholm to receive the prize in person; they were too busy with theirwork, and Pierre, who disliked public ceremonies, was feeling increasingly ill.As Nobel laureates wererequired to deliver a lecture, the Curies finally undertook the trip in 1905. The award money allowed theCuries to hire their first lab assistant. Following the award of the Nobel Prize, and galvanized by an offer fromthe University of Geneva, which offered Pierre a position, the Sorbonne gave Pierre a professorship and thechair of physics, although the Curies still did not have a proper laboratory. Upon Pierres complaint, theSorbonne relented and agreed to furbish a new laboratory, but it would not be ready until 1906. In December 1904, Marie gave birth to their second daughter, Ève Curie. She later hiredPolish governesses to teach her daughters her native language, and sent or took them on visits to Poland. On 19 April 1906, Pierre was killed in a road accident. Walking across the Rue Dauphine in heavy rain, he wasstruck by a horse-drawn vehicle and fell under its wheels; his skull was fractured. Marie was devastated bythe death of her husband. On 13 May 1906, the Sorbonne physics department decided to retain the chairthat had been created for Pierre and offer it to Marie. She accepted it, hoping to create a world classlaboratory as a tribute to Pierre. She became the first woman to become a professor at the Sorbonne.
1911 Nobel PrizeMaries quest to create a new laboratory did not end with Sorbonne. In her later years, Marie headed theRadium Institute (Institut du radium, now Curie Institute, Institut Curie), a radioactivity laboratory created for herby the Pasteur Institute and the University of Paris. This initiative came in 1909 from Pierre Paul Émile Roux,director of the Pasteur Institute, who became disappointed that the Sorbonne was not giving Marie a properlaboratory and suggested that she move to the Institute. Only then, with the threat of Marie leaving,Sorbonne relented, and eventually the Curie Pavilion became a joint initiative of the Sorbonne and the PasteurInstitute.In 1910, Marie succeeded in isolating radium; she also defined an international standard for radioactiveemissions that was eventually named after her and Pierre: the curie.Nevertheless, in 1911 the FrenchAcademy of Sciences did not elect her to be a member by one or two votes Elected insteadwas ÉdouardBranly, an inventor who had helped Guglielmo Marconi develop the wireless telegraph. Adoctoral student of Curie, Marguerite Perey, became the first woman elected to membership in the Academy –over half a century later, in 1962. Despite Curies fame as a scientist working for France, the publics attitudetended toward xenophobia—the same that had led to the Dreyfus affair–which also fuelled false speculationthat Marie was Jewish. During the French Academy of Sciences elections, she was vilified by the rightwing press, who criticised her for being a foreigner and an atheist. Her daughter later remarked on thepublic hypocrisy; as the French press often portrayed Marie as an unworthy foreigner when she was nominatedfor a French honour, but would portray her as a French hero when she received a foreign one, such as herNobel Prizes.
At First Solvay Conference (1911), Curie (seated, 2nd from right) confers with Henri Poincaré. Standing, 4th from right,isRutherford; 2nd from right, Einstein; far right,PaulLangevinIn 1911, it was revealed that in 1910–11 Marie had conducted an affair of about a years duration withphysicist Paul Langevin, a former student of Pierres. He was a married man who was estranged from hiswife. This resulted in a press scandal that was exploited by her academic opponents. Marie was five yearsolder than Langevin and was portrayed in the tabloids as a foreign Jewish home-wrecker. Curie was awayfor a conference in Belgium when the scandal broke, upon her return, she found an angry mob in front of herhouse, and had to seek a refuge with her daughters at a house of a friend.Later, Curiesgranddaughter, Hélène Joliot, married Langevins grandson, Michel Langevin.Despite that, international recognition for her work grew to new heights, and in 1911, theRoyal SwedishAcademy of Sciences awarded her a second Nobel Prize, this time for Chemistry. This award was "inrecognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium andpolonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkableelement." Marie was the first person to win or share two Nobel Prizes. She is one of only two people whohave been awarded a Nobel Prize in two different fields, the other person being Linus Pauling (for chemistryand for peace). A delegation of celebrated Polish men of learning, headed by novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz,encouraged her to return to Poland and continue her research in her native country. Maries second NobelPrize enabled her to talk the French government into supporting the Radium Institute, which was built in 1914and at which research was conducted in chemistry, physics, and medicine. A month after accepting her 1911Nobel Prize, she was hospitalised with depression and a kidney ailment. For most of 1912, she avoidedpublic life, and spent some time in England with her friend and fellow physicist, HerthaAyrton. She returnedto her lab only in December, after a break of about 14 months.
In 1912, the Warsaw Scientific Society offered her the directorship of a new laboratory in Warsaw, but shedeclined, focusing on the developing Radium Institute, to be completed in August 1914 and a new streetnamed Rue Pierre-Curie. She visited Poland in 1913, and was welcomed in Warsaw, but the visit wasmostly ignored by the Russian authorities. The Institutes development was interrupted by the coming war, asmost researchers were drafted into the French Army, and it fully resumed its activities in 1919.World War ICurie in a mobile x-ray vehicleDuring World War I, Marie saw a need for field radiological centres near the front lines to assist battlefieldsurgeons. After a quick study of radiology, anatomy and automotive mechanics she procured x-rayequipment, vehicles, auxiliary generators and developed mobile radiography units, which came to be popularlyknown as petites Curies ("Little Curies"). She became the Director of the Red Cross Radiology Service andset up Frances first military radiology centre, operational by late 1914. Assisted at first by a military doctorand her 17-year old daughter Irene, she directed the installation of twenty mobile radiological vehicles andanother 200 radiological units at field hospitals in the first year of the war. Later, she began training otherwomen as aides.In 1915, Marie produced hollow needles containing radium emanation, a colourless, radioactive gas given offby radium, later identified as radon to be used for sterilizing infected tissue. Marie provided the radium, fromher own one-gram supply. It is estimated that over one million wounded soldiers were treated with her x-rayunits. Busy with this work, she carried out next to no scientific research during that period.  In spite of allher efforts, Curie never received any formal recognition from the French government for her contribution duringwartime.Also, promptly after the war started, she attempted to donate her gold Nobel Prize medals to the war effort butthe French National Bank refused to accept them. She did buy war bonds, using her Nobel Prizemoney. She was also active member in committees of Polonia in France dedicated to the Polishcause. After the war, she summarized her war time experiences in a bookRadiology in War (1919).
Postwar yearsIn 1920, for the 25th anniversary of the discovery of radium, the French government established a stipend forher; its previous recipient was Louis Pasteur (1822-95). In 1921, Marie was welcomed triumphantly whenshe toured the United States to raise funds for research on radium. Mrs. William Brown Meloney, afterinterviewing Marie, created a Marie Curie Radium Fund and raised money to buy radium, publicising hertrip. In 1921, US President Warren G. Harding received her at the White House to present her with the1 gram of radium collected in the United States. Before the meeting, recognising her growing fame abroad,and embarrassed by the fact that she had no French official distinctions to wear in public, the Frenchgovernment offered her a Legion of Honour award, but she refused. In 1922 she became a fellow ofthe French Academy of Medicine. She also travelled to other countries, appearing publicly and givinglectures in Belgium, Brazil, Spain, and Czechoslovakia.Led by Curie, the Institute produced four more Nobel Prize winners, including her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and her son-in-law,Frédéric Joliot-Curie. Eventually, it became one of four major radioactivity researchlaboratories, the others being the Cavendish Laboratory, with Ernest Rutherford; the Institute for RadiumResearch, Vienna, with Stefan Meyer; and the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry, with Otto Hahn and LiseMeitner.In August 1922, Marie Curie became a member of the newly created International Commission for IntellectualCooperation of theLeague of Nations. In 1923, she wrote a biography of Pierre, entitled Pierre Curie. In1925, she visited Poland, to participate in the ceremony that laid foundations for the Radium Institute inWarsaw. Her second American tour, in 1929, succeeded in equipping the Warsaw Radium Institute withradium; it was opened in 1932 and her sister Bronisława became its director.These distractions from her scientific labours and the attendant publicity caused her much discomfort butprovided resources needed for her work.Death
1935 statue, facing the Radium Institute, WarsawMarie visited Poland for the last time in early 1934. A few months later, on 4 July 1934, Marie died atthe Sancellemoz Sanatorium in Passy, in Haute-Savoie, from aplastic anemia believed to have beencontracted from her long-term exposure to radiation. The damaging effects of ionising radiation were notknown at the time of her work, which had been carried out without the safety measures later developed. Shehad carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket  and stored them in her desk drawer,remarking on the faint light that the substances gave off in the dark. Marie was also exposed to X-rays fromunshielded equipment while serving as a radiologist in field hospitals during the war. She was interred at the cemetery in Sceaux, alongside her husband Pierre. Sixty years later, in 1995, inhonour of their achievements, the remains of both were transferred to the Panthéon, Paris. She became thefirst—and so far the only—woman to be honoured with interment in the Panthéon on her own merits.Because of their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous tohandle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. Her papers are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those whowish to consult them must wear protective clothing.In her last year she worked on a book, Radioactivity, which was published posthumously in 1935.LegacyStatue, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, PolandThe physical and societal aspects of the Curies work contributed substantially to shaping the world of thetwentieth and twenty-first centuries. Cornell University professor L. Pearce Williamsobserves:The result of the Curies work was epoch-making. Radiums radioactivity was so great that it could not beignored. It seemed to contradict the principle of the conservation of energy and therefore forced a
reconsideration of the foundations of physics. On the experimental level the discovery of radium provided menlike Ernest Rutherford with sources of radioactivity with which they could probe the structure of the atom. As aresult of Rutherfords experiments with alpha radiation, the nuclear atom was first postulated. In medicine, theradioactivity of radium appeared to offer a means by which cancer could be successfully attacked. If Marie Curies work helped overturn established ideas in physics and chemistry, it has had an equallyprofound effect in the societal sphere. To attain her scientific achievements, she had to overcome barriers thatwere placed in her way because she was a woman, in both her native and her adoptive country. This aspect ofher life and career is highlighted in Françoise Girouds Marie Curie: A Life, which emphasizes Maries role as afeminist precursor.She was known for her honesty and moderate life style. Having received a small scholarship in 1893, shereturned it in 1897 as soon as she began earning her keep. She gave much of her first Nobel Prize moneyto friends, family, students and research associates. In an unusual decision, Marie intentionally refrained frompatenting the radium-isolation process, so that the scientific community could do research unhindered.  Sheinsisted that monetary gifts and awards were given to the scientific institutions she was affiliated with ratherthan to herself. She and her husband often refused awards and medals. Albert Einstein reportedlyremarked that she was probably the only person not corrupted by fame.Awards, honours and tributesTomb of Pierre and Marie Curie,Panthéon, ParisAs one of the most famous female scientists to date, Marie Curie has become an icon in the scientific worldand has received tributes from across the globe, even in the realm of pop culture.In a 2009 poll carried outby New Scientist, Marie Curie was voted the "most inspirational woman in science". Curie received 25.1 percent of all votes cast, nearly twice as many as second-placeRosalind Franklin (14.2 per cent).
Poland and France declared 2011 the Year of Marie Curie, and the United Nations declared that this would bethe International Year of Chemistry. An artistic installation celebrating "Madame Curie" filled the JacobsGallery at San Diegos Museum of Contemporary Art. On 7 November, Googlecelebrated her birthday with aspecial Google Doodle. On 10 December, the New York Academy of Sciences celebrated the centenary ofMarie Curies second Nobel prize in the presence ofPrincess Madeleine of Sweden.Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel prize, the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, the only womanto win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. Awards that she received include: Nobel Prize in Physics (1903) Davy Medal (1903, with Pierre) Matteucci Medal (1904; with Pierre) Elliott Cresson Medal (1909) Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1911)Soviet postage stamp (1987) Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society (1921)In 1995, she became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon,Paris. The curie (symbol Ci), a unit of radioactivity, is named in honour of her and Pierre (although thecommission which agreed on the name never clearly stated whether the standard was named after Pierre,Marie or both of them). The element with atomic number 96 was named curium. Three radioactiveminerals are also named after the Curies: curite, sklodowskite, and cuprosklodowskite. She receivednumerous honorary degrees from universities across the world. The Marie Curie Actions fellowship programof the European Union for young scientists wishing to work in a foreign country is named after her.  InPoland, she had received honorary doctorates from the Lwów Polytechnic(1912), PoznańUniversity (1922), Krakóws Jagiellonian University (1924), and the Warsaw Polytechnic (1926).Numerous locations around the world are named after her. In 2007, a metro station in Paris was renamed tohonour both of the Curies. Polish nuclear research reactor Maria is named after her. The 7000
Curie asteroid is also named after her. A KLMMcDonnell Douglas MD-11 (registration PH-KCC) is named inher honour.2011 birthplace mural, oncentenary of second Nobel PrizeSeveral institutions bear her name, starting with the two Curie institutes - the Maria Skłodowska–Curie Instituteof Oncology, in Warsaw and the Institut Curie in Paris. She is the patron of the Maria Curie-SkłodowskaUniversity, in Lublin, founded in 1944, and Pierre and Marie Curie University, in Paris, established in 1971. InBritain Marie Curie Cancer Care was set up in 1948 to care for the terminally ill. There are two museumsdedicated to Marie Curie: in 1967, a museum devoted to Curie was established in Warsaws "New Town", ather birthplace on ulicaFreta (Freta Street); her laboratory is preserved as the Musée Curie in Paris, opensince 1992.Several works of art bear her likeness, or are dedicated to her. MichalinaMościcka, wife of PolishPresident IgnacyMościcki, unveiled a 1935 statue of Marie Curie before Warsaws Radium Institute.During the1944 Second World War Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi German occupation, the monument was damagedby gunfire; after the war it was decided to leave the bullet marks on the statue and its pedestal.  In 1955 JozefMazur created a stained glass panel of her, the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Medallion, featured in the University atBuffalo Polish Room.Books dedicated to her include Madame Curie (1938), written by her daughter, Ève. In 1987FrançoiseGiroud wrote a biography, Marie Curie: A Life. In 2005, Barbara Goldsmith wroteObsessive Genius: TheInner World of Marie Curie. In 2011, another book appeared, Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale ofLove and Fallout , by Lauren Redniss.Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon starred in the 1943 U.S. Oscar-nominated film, Madame Curie, based onher life. More recently, in 1997, a French film about Pierre and Marie Curie was released, Les Palmes de M.Schutz. It was adapted from a play of the same name. In the film, Marie Curie was played by IsabelleHuppert.
Curies likeness also has appeared on bills, stamps and coins around the world. She was featured on thePolish late-1980s 20,000-złoty banknote as well as on the last French 500-franc note, before the franc wasreplaced by the euro.On the 2011 centenary of Marie Curies second Nobel Prize (1911), an allegorical mural was painted onthe façade of her Warsaw birthplace. It depicts an infant Maria Skłodowska holding a test tube from whichemanate the elements that she would discover as an adult: polonium and radium.Notesa. ^ Poland had been partitioned in the 18th century among Russia, Prussia and Austria, and it was MarieSkłodowska–Curies hope that naming the element after her native country would bring world attention to itslack of independence. Polonium may have been the first chemical element named to highlight a politicalquestion.b. ^ Sources tend to vary with regards to the field of her second degree. TadeuszEstreicher, in his 1938 entry inthe Polish Biographical Dictionary, writes that while many sources state she earned a degree in mathematics,this is incorrect, and her second degree was in chemistry.The Nobel Prize in Physics 1903Henri Becquerel, Pierre Curie, Marie CurieThe Nobel Prize in Physics 1903Henri BecquerelPierre CurieMarie CurieBiography
Marie Curie, née Maria Sklodowska, was born in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, thedaughter of a secondary-school teacher. She received a general education in local schools and some scientifictraining from her father. She became involved in a students revolutionary organization and found it prudent to leaveWarsaw, then in the part of Poland dominated by Russia, for Cracow, which at that time was under Austrian rule. In1891, she went to Paris to continue her studies at the Sorbonne where she obtained Licenciateships in Physics andthe Mathematical Sciences. She met Pierre Curie, Professor in the School of Physics in 1894 and in the followingyear they were married. She succeeded her husband as Head of the Physics Laboratory at the Sorbonne, gained herDoctor of Science degree in 1903, and following the tragic death of Pierre Curie in 1906, she took his place asProfessor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences, the first time a woman had held this position. She was alsoappointed Director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris, founded in 1914.Her early researches, together with her husband, were often performed under difficult conditions, laboratoryarrangements were poor and both had to undertake much teaching to earn a livelihood. The discovery of radioactivityby Henri Becquerel in 1896 inspired the Curies in their brilliant researches and analyses which led to the isolation ofpolonium, named after the country of Maries birth, and radium. Mme. Curie developed methods for the separation ofradium from radioactive residues in sufficient quantities to allow for its characterization and the careful study of itsproperties, therapeutic properties in particular.Mme. 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. She retained her enthusiasmfor science throughout her life and did much to establish a radioactivity laboratory in her native city - in 1929President Hoover of the United States presented her with a gift of $ 50,000, donated by American friends of science,to purchase radium for use in the laboratory in Warsaw.Mme. Curie, quiet, dignified and unassuming, was held in high esteem and admiration by scientists throughout theworld. She was a member of the Conseil du Physique Solvay from 1911 until her death and since 1922 she had beena member of the Committee of Intellectual Co-operation of the League of Nations. Her work is recorded in numerouspapers in scientific journals and she is the author of Recherchessur les Substances Radioactives (1904),LIsotopie etles Éléments Isotopes and the classic Traité de Radioactivité (1910).The importance of Mme. Curies work is reflected in the numerous awards bestowed on her. She received manyhonorary science, medicine and law degrees and honorary memberships of learned societies throughout the world.
Together with her husband, she was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, for their study into thespontaneous radiation discovered by Becquerel, who was awarded the other half of the Prize. In 1911 she received asecondNobel Prize, this time in Chemistry, in recognition of her work in radioactivity. She also received, jointly withher husband, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society in 1903 and, in 1921, President Harding of the United States, onbehalf of the women of America, presented her with one gram of radium in recognition of her service to science.For further details, cf. Biography of Pierre Curie. Mme. Curie died in Savoy, France, after a short illness, on July 4,1934.From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1901-1921, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1967This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in thebook seriesLes Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures. To cite thisdocument, always state the source as shown above. ADVERTISEMENTmore sharing servicesshareMarie Curie biographyprofilephotos
1 photo QUICK FACTSNAME: Marie CurieOCCUPATION: PhysicistBIRTH DATE: November 07, 1867DEATH DATE: July 04, 1934EDUCATION: Sorbonnemore about Marie BEST KNOWN FORMarie Curie was a Polish-born French physicist famous for her work on radioactivity and twice a winner of the NobelPrize.QUIZThink you know about Biography?Answer questions and see how you rank against other players. PLAY NOWHome
•People• Marie CuriePrint Cite ThisSynopsisBorn Maria Sklodowska on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland, Marie Curie became the first woman towin a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win the award in two different fields (physics and chemistry). Curiesefforts, with her husband, Pierre Curie, led to the discovery of polonium and radium and, after Pierres death,the development of X-rays. She died on July 4, 1934. CONTENTS Synopsis Early Life Discoveries Science Celebrity Final Days and Legacy QUOTES "I believe that Science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician; he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales." – Marie CurieEarly LifeMaria Sklodowska, better known as Marie Curie, was born in Warsaw in modern-day Poland on November 7,1867. Her parents were borth teachers, and she was the youngest of five children. As a child Curie took afterher father, Ladislas, a math and physics instructor. She had a bright and curious mind and excelled at school.But tragedy struck early, and when she was only 11, Curie lost her mother, Bronsitwa, to tuberculosis.A top student in her secondary school, Curie could not attend the men-only University of Warsaw. She insteadcontinued her education in Warsaws "floating university," a set of underground, informal classes held insecret. Both Curie and her sister Bronya dreamed of going abroad to earn an official degree, but they lackedthe financial resources to pay for more schooling. Undeterred, Curie worked out a deal with her sister. Shewould work to support Bronya while she was in school and Bronya would return the favor after she completedher studies.For roughly five years, Curie worked as a tutor and a governess. She used her spare time to study, readingabout physics, chemistry and math. In 1891, Curie finally made her way to Paris where she enrolled at theSorbonne in Paris. She threw herself into her studies, but this dedication had a personal cost. With little money,Curie survived on buttered bread and tea, and her health sometimes suffered because of her poor diet.
Curie completed her masters degree in physics in 1893 and earned another degree in mathematics thefollowing year. Around this time, she received a commission to do a study on different types of steel and theirmagnetic properties. Curie needed a lab to work in, and a colleague introduced her to French physicist PierreCurie. A romance developed between the brilliant pair, and they became a scientific dynamic duo.DiscoveriesMarie and Pierre Curie were dedicated scientists and completely devoted to one another. At first, they workedon separate projects. She was fascinated with the work of Henri Becquerel, a French physicist who discoveredthat uranium casts off rays, weaker rays than the X-rays found by Wilhelm Roentgen.Curie took Becquerels work a few steps further, conducting her own experiments on uranium rays. Shediscovered that the rays remained constant, no matter the condition or form of the uranium. The rays, shetheorized, came from the elements atomic structure. This revolutionary idea created the field of atomic physicsand Curie herself coined the word radioactivity to describe the phenomena. Marie and Pierre had a daughter,Irene, in 1897, but their work didnt slow down.Pierre put aside his own work to help Marie with her exploration of radioactivity. Working with the mineralpitchblende, the pair discovered a new radioactive element in 1898. They named the element polonium, afterMaries native country of Poland. They also detected the presence of another radioactive material in thepitchblende, and called that radium. In 1902, the Curies announced that they had produced a decigram of pureradium, demonstrating its existence as a unique chemical element. CONTENTS Synopsis Early Life Discoveries Science Celebrity Final Days and LegacyScience CelebrityMarie Curie made history in 1903 when she became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. Shewon the prestigious honor along with her husband andHenri Becquerel, for their work on radioactivity. Withtheir Nobel Prize win, the Curies developed an international reputation for their scientific efforts, and theyused their prize money to continue their research. They welcomed a second child, daughter Eve, the followingyear.In 1906, Marie suffered a tremendous loss. Her husband Pierre was killed in Paris after he accidentally steppedin front of a horse-drawn wagon. Despite her tremendous grief, she took over his teaching post at theSorbonne, becoming the institutions first female professor.Curie received another great honor in 1911, winning her second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry. She wasselected for her discovery of radium and polonium, and became the first scientist to win two Nobel Prizes.While she received the prize alone, she shared the honor jointly with her late husband in her acceptancelecture.
Around this time, Curie joined with other famous scientists, including Albert Einstein and Max Planck, toattend the first Solvay Congress in Physics. They gathered to discuss the many groundbreaking discoveries intheir field. Curie experienced the downside of fame in 1911, when her relationship with her husbands formerstudent, Paul Langevin, became public. Curie was derided in the press for breaking up Langevins marriage.The press negativity towards Curie stemmed at least in part from rising xenophobia in France.When World War I broke out in 1914, Curie devoted her time and resources to helping the cause. Shechampioned the use of portable X-ray machines in the field, and these medical vehicles earned the nickname"Little Curies." After the war, Curie used her celebrity to advance her research. She traveled to the UnitedStates twice— in 1921 and in 1929— to raise funds to buy radium and to establish a radium research institutein Warsaw.Final Days and LegacyAll of her years of working with radioactive materials took a toll on Curies health. She was known to carrytest tubes of radium around in the pocket of her lab coat. In 1934, Curie went to the Sancellemoz Sanatoriumin Passy, France, to try to rest and regain her strength. She died there on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anemia,which can be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation.Marie Curie made many breakthroughs in her lifetime. She is the most famous female scientist of all time, andhas received numerous posthumous honors.In 1995, her and her husbands remains were interred in the Panthéon in Paris, the final resting place of manyFrances greatest minds. Curie became the first and only woman to be laid to rest there.Curie also passed down her love of science to the next generation. Her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie followed inher mothers footsteps, CONTENTS Synopsis Early Life Discoveries Science Celebrity Final Days and Legacywinning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. Joliot-Curie shared the honor with her husband Frédéric Joliotfor their work on their synthesis of new radioactive elements.Today several educational and research institutions and medical centers bear the Curie name, including theInstitute Curie and the Pierre and Marie Curie University, both in Paris.
Nation and FamilyNation and Family PRISONER IN CHAINS. That is what Poland seemed like to Maria Sklodowska. Manya, as she was affectionately called,learned to be a Polish patriot from her parents, Bronislawa andVladislavSklodowski. At the time of Marias birth in Warsaw onNovember 7, 1867, Poland had not been an independent country formost of a century. It had been divided up among Austria, Prussia, andczarist Russia.Warsaw was in the part of Poland controlled by the czar, who hoped Czar Alexander II preferred toto stamp out Polish nationalism by keeping the people ignorant of wear a military uniform. Whentheir culture and language. But Polish patriots were determined to the Czar was assassinated byregain control of their nation. As educators, Marias parents did their revolutionary students in 1881, Manya and her best friend Kaziabest to overcome restrictions placed on them by their Russian celebrated by dancing aroundsupervisors. the desks in their classroom. READ Curies words MAP of Russian PolandThe birth of Manya, her fifth child, led her mother toresign her position as head of a school, where the familyhad resided until then. They moved to a boys highschool, where Vladislav taught math and physics andearned a good salary. Eventually, however, the Russiansupervisor in charge of the school fired him for his pro-Polish sentiments.“Constantly held in suspicion and spied upon, thechildren knew that a single conversation in Polish,or an imprudent word, might seriously harm, not The five Sklodowski children. From left toonly themselves, but also their families.” right: Zosia died of typhus; Hela became an--Marie Curie educator; Maria, twice a Nobel laureate; and Józef and Bronya, physicians. “We all had much facility for intellectual work,” said Marie. (photo ACJC)
S HER FATHER WAS FORCED into a series of progressively lower academic posts, the familys economic situation deteriorated. To help make ends meet they had to take in student boarders. Maria was only eight when her oldest sister caught typhus from a boarder and died. That death was followed less than three years later by the death of Madame Sklodowska, who lost a five-year battle with tuberculosis at the age of 42. The surviving family members--Professor Sklodowski; his son Joseph; and his daughters Bronya, Hela, and Maria--drew closer to one another. Although Sklodowski would never forgive himself for losing the family savings in a bad investment, the children honored him for nurturing them emotionally and intellectually. On Saturday nights he read classics of literature to Maria and her siblings. He also exposed them to the scientific apparatus he had once usedMarie was ten years old when her in teaching physics but now kept at home, since the Russianmother died in May 1878. As an adult authorities had eliminated laboratory instruction from the PolishMarie remembered it as “the first curriculum.great sorrow of my life,” which“threw me into a profounddepression.” (photo ACJC) “I easily learned mathematics and physics, as far as these sciences were taken in consideration in the school. I found in this ready help from my father, who loved science....Unhappily, he had no laboratory and could not perform experiments.”Manya was the star pupil in her class. Her personal lossesdid not impede her academic success, but the pleasure ofbeing awarded a gold medal at her high school graduationin 1883 was blunted because it meant shaking the hand ofthe grandmaster of education in Russian Poland. Aftergraduating at 15, Manya suffered a collapse that doctorsthought was due to fatigue or "nervous" problems -- todayit might be diagnosed as depression. At her fathers urgingManya spent a year with cousins in the country. A merryround of dances and other festivities, it would be the onlycarefree year of her life. Manyas secondary school diploma. She later recalled “always having held first rank in my class.” (photo ACJC)
The Floating University ARIA HOPED, LIKE HER SIBLINGS, to get an advanceddegree. Although Joseph was able to enrollin the medical school at the University ofWarsaw, women were not welcome there.Maria and Bronya joined other friends inattending the Floating University. Thisillegal night school got its name from thefact that its classes met in changing Cossacks parading in Warsaw after Russia crushed a nationalist rising in 1863.locations, the better to evade the watchfuleyes of the czarist authorities. Its studentslofty goal went beyond mere self-improvement. They hoped their grass-roots “It was one of those groups of Polish youths whoeducational movement would raise the believed that the hope of their country lay in alikelihood of eventual Polish liberation. great effort to develop the intellectual and moral strength of the nation....we agreed amongThis fly-by-night education could not match ourselves to give evening courses, each onethe curriculum at any of the major teaching what he knew best.”--Marie CurieEuropean universities that admitted women.Although Maria understood this fact, at theFloating University she did get a taste ofprogressive thought and an introduction tonew developments in the sciences.Years of Study ANYA BECAME MARIE when she enrolled at the Sorbonne in fall 1891. At first she lived inthe home of her sister. Bronya had married anotherPolish patriot, CasimirDluski, whom she had met inmedical school. The Dluskis home, however, was anhours commute by horse-drawn bus from theuniversity, and Marie resented the lost time, not tomention the money wasted on carfare. Paris in 1889 (two years before Marie Sklodowskas arrival), with the Eiffel Tower newly erected for a worlds fair--a celebration of modern technology [another view]
In addition, remaining with the Dluskis meant participating regularly in the active Polish exilecommunity in Paris. Maries father warned her that doing so might jeopardize her career prospects athome or even the lives of relatives there. Thus after a few months Marie moved to the LatinQuarter, the artists and students neighborhood close to the university.Her living arrangements were basic. Stories from theseyears tell how she kept herself warm during the wintermonths by wearing every piece of clothing she owned,and how she fainted from hunger because she was tooabsorbed in study to eat. But even if Bronya had tocome to her aid from time to time, living alone enabledMarie to focus seriously on her studies.“...my situation was not exceptional; it was thefamiliar experience of many of the Polish studentswhom I knew....” Paris rooftops, painting by GustaveCaillebotte [More] READ Curies words The diligence paid off. Marie finished first in her masters degree physics course in the summer of 1893 and second in math the following year. Lack of money had stood in the way of her undertaking the math degree, but senior French scientists recognized her abilities and pulled some strings. She was awarded a scholarship earmarked for an outstanding Polish student. Before completing the math degree she was also commissioned by the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry to do a study, relating magnetic properties of different steels to their chemical composition. She needed to find a lab where she could do the work. Love and Marriage HE SEARCH FOR LAB SPACE led to a fateful introduction. In the spring of 1894, Marie Sklodowska mentioned her need for a lab to a Polish physicist of herAnother Polish student in Paris drewthis portrait of Marie in 1892, after acquaintance. It occurred to him that his colleague Pierreshe had been enrolled at the Curie might be able to assist her. Curie, who had done pioneeringSorbonne for some months. research on magnetism, was laboratory chief at the MunicipalAlthough at first she spent some School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry in Paris. Unaware of
time with other Polish students to how inadequate Pierres own lab facilities were, the professorhelp overcome homesickness, she suggested that perhaps Pierre could find room there for Marie tosoon had to devote all her time to work. The meeting between Curie and Sklodowska would changeher studies. (Photo ACJC) not only their individual lives but also the course of science.“I noticed the grave and gentle expression of his face, as well as a certain abandon in hisattitude, suggesting the dreamer absorbed in his reflections.”Marie would eventually find rudimentary lab space at theMunicipal School. Meanwhile her relationship with Curie wasgrowing from mutual respect to love. Her senior by about adecade, Pierre had all but given up on love after the death of aclose woman companion some 15 years earlier. The women hehad met since had shown no interest in science, his lifes passion.In Marie, however, he found an equal with a comparable devotionto science. OLAND STILL BECKONED HER BACK.After her success in her math exam in the summer of 1894, Mariereturned there for a vacation, uncertain whether she would returnto France. Pierres heartfelt letters helped convince her to pursueher doctorate in Paris. Marie hesitated before agreeing to marry Pierre Curie, because such a decision “meant abandoning my country and my family.” (Photo ACJC) READ Curies words “Our work drew us closer and closer, until we were both convinced that neither of us could find a better life companion.” Marie was determined not only to get her own doctorate but to see to it that Pierre received one as well. Although Pierre had done important scientific research in more than one field over the past 15 years, he had never completed a doctorate (in France the process consumed even more time than it did in the U.S. or U.K.). Marie insisted now that he write up his research on magnetism. In March 1895 he was awarded the degree. At the Municipal School Pierre was promoted to a professorship. The honor and the higher salary were offset by increasedGabriel Lippmann, Marie Curiesthesis advisor, did early studies in a teaching duties without any improvement in lab space.field in which Pierre Curie and hisbrother were pioneers: electricaleffects in crystals. A pillar of the
French tradition of patronage,Lippmann let Marie use his laboratoryfor her thesis work and helped her findother sources of support.In a simple civil ceremony in July 1895, they became husbandand wife. Neither wanted a religious service. Marie had losther faith when her devout Roman Catholic mother diedyoung, and Pierre was the son of non-practicing Protestants.Nor did they exchange rings. Instead of a bridal gown Mariewore a dark blue outfit, which for years after was a serviceablelab garment. The Curies honeymoon trip was a tour of France on bicycles purchased with a wedding gift. (Photo ACJC) Another view Next Work Wife and Moth Also: Pierre Curie
X-rays and Uranium Rays ARIE CURIES CHOICE of a thesis topic was influenced by two recent discoveries by other scientists. InDecember 1895, about six months after the Curies married,German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen discovered a kind of raythat could travel through solid wood or flesh and yieldphotographs of living peoples bones. Roentgen dubbed thesemysterious rays X-rays, with X standing for unknown. Inrecognition of his discovery, Roentgen in 1901 became the firstNobel laureate in physics. One of Roentgens first X-ray photographs -- a colleagues hand (note the wedding ring). The revelation of X-rays fascinated the public and deeply puzzled scientists In early 1896, only a few of months after Roentgens discovery, French physicist Henri Becquerel reported to the French Academy of Sciences that uranium compounds, even if they were kept in the dark, emitted rays that would fog a photographic plate. He had come upon this discovery accidentally. Despite Becquerels intriguing finding, the scientific community continued to focus its attention on Roentgens X- rays, neglecting the much weaker Becquerel rays or uranium rays. HE IGNORED URANIUM RAYS appealed to Marie Curie. Since she would not have a long bibliography of published papers to read, she could begin experimental work onHenri Becquerel, discoverer of them immediately. The director of the Paris Municipal School ofuranium radiation. Although he tried Industrial Physics and Chemistry, where Pierre was professor ofto help the Curies solve their financial physics, permitted her to use a crowded, damp storeroom thereproblems and advance their careers, as a lab.the relationship eventually soured--assometimes happens with scientiststouchy about sharing credit fordiscoveries.
A clever technique was her key to success. About 15 yearsearlier, Pierre and his older brother, Jacques, had invented anew kind of electrometer, a device for measuring extremelylow electrical currents. Marie now put the Curie electrometerto use in measuring the faint currents that can pass through airthat has been bombarded with uranium rays. The moist air inthe storeroom tended to dissipate the electric charge, but shemanaged to make reproducible measurements.“Instead of making these bodies act upon photographicplates, I preferred to determine the intensity of theirradiation by measuring the conductivity of the airexposed to the action of the rays.” This device for precise electrical measurement, invented by Pierre Curie and his brother Jacques, was essential for Maries work. (Photo ACJC) You can exit this site to anexhibit on the discovery of the electronWith numerous experiments Marie confirmed Becquerels observations that the electricaleffects of uranium rays are constant, regardless of whether the uranium was solid orpulverized, pure or in a compound, wet or dry, or whether exposed to light or heat.Likewise, her study of the rays emitted by different uranium compounds validatedBecquerels conclusion that the minerals with a higher proportion of uranium emitted themost intense rays. She went beyond Becquerels work, however, in forming a crucialhypothesis: the emission of rays by uranium compounds could be an atomic property of the element uranium--something built into the very structure of its atoms. ARIES SIMPLE HYPOTHESIS would prove revolutionary. It would ultimatelycontribute to a fundamental shift in scientific understanding. At the time scientistsregarded the atom--a word meaning undivided or indivisible -- as the most elementaryparticle. A hint that this ancient idea was false came from the discovery of the electron byother scientists around this same time. But nobody grasped the complex inner structureor the immense energy stored in atoms. Marie and Pierre Curie themselves were notconvinced that radioactive energy came from within atoms--maybe, for example, theearth was bathed in cosmic rays, whose energy certain atoms somehow caught andradiated? Maries real achievement was to cut through the complicated and obscure
observations with a crystal-clear analysis of the set of conclusions that, howeverunexpected, were logically possible.Marie tested all the known elements in order to determine if other elements or mineralswould make air conduct electricity better, or if uranium alone could do this. In this taskshe was assisted by a number of chemists who donated a variety of mineral samples,including some containing very rare elements. In April 1898 her research revealed thatthorium compounds, like those of uranium, emit Becquerel rays. Again the emissionappeared to be an atomic property. To describe the behavior of uranium and thorium sheinvented the word “radioactivity” --based on the Latin word for ray. Next: The Discovery of Polonium and Radium Also: Radioactivity: The Unstable NucleusfRANCE WAS LESS FORTHCOMING than othercountries when it came to honoring the Curies work. In earlyJune 1903 both Curies were invited to London as guests of theprestigious Royal Institution. Since custom ruled out womenlecturers, Pierre alone described their work in his “FridayEvening Discourse.” He was careful, however, to describeMaries crucial role in their collaboration. The audience includedrepresentatives of Englands social elite and such majorscientists as Lord Kelvin. Kelvin showed his respect by sittingnext to Marie at the lecture and by hosting a luncheon inPierres honor the following day. Britains Lord Kelvin, whose contributions in several fields helped shape the scientific thought of his era, openly displayed his admiration for Pierres scientific achievements.
But all was not well that weekend. Pierre was in such bad health that he had experienced difficulty in dressing himself before the talk. His fingers were so covered with sores that he spilled some radium in the hall while demonstrating its properties. Ill health, however, kept neither Curie from noting the value of the jewels worn by the members of English high society they met in the course of the weekend. They amused themselves by estimating the number of fine laboratories they could set up with the proceeds from selling those jewels. ISITORS FROM ABROAD also helped honor Marie on the occasion of her formal thesis defense in June 1903. Her sister Bronya made the difficult trip from Poland to celebrate Maries academic triumph.The attention that English scientists paid tothe Curies work helped make them Bronya had insisted that the first woman to receive ahousehold names in that country, as in thisfamous caricature, “Radium,” from the doctorate in France should acknowledge the special event bypopular British periodicalVanity Fair. wearing a new dress. Characteristically, Marie chose a black dress. Like the navy wedding outfit she had chosen eight years earlier, the new dress could be worn in the lab without fear of stains. Another foreign admirer was a last-minute guest at a dinner to celebrate Maries achievement. New Zealand-born scientist Ernest Rutherford, who was also actively engaged in research in the new science of radioactivity, was visiting Paris. He had stopped by the Municipal School shed where Marie isolated radium, and at dinner that night he asked Marie how they managed to work in such a place. “You know,” he said, “it must be dreadful not to have a laboratory to play around in.” AMILY LOSSES UNDERCUT some of the pleasure Marie could take in her own achievements. In August 1903 she experienced a miscarriage. Some time later Bronyas second child died of tubercular meningitis. And against the backdrop of these specific losses was the fact that Pierres health continued to deteriorate. Sometimes unbearable pain kept him awake all night, lying weakly in bed, moaning.Title page of the published version ofMarie Curies doctoral thesis, “Researchon Radioactive Substances.” Theexaminers exclaimed that Curiesdoctoral research contributed more toscientific knowledge than any previousthesis project.
“I had grown so accustomed to the idea of the child that I am absolutely desperate and cannot be consoled.” --letter from Marie Curie to Bronya, August 25, 1903 Marie Curie in 1903, the year her thesis was published. (Photo ACJC) Next: The Nobel Prize and its AftermathA Fatal Accident IFE WAS SEEMING A BIT ROSIER to Pierre Curie in the spring of 1906. During the familys recent Easter holiday in the country, he had enjoyed watching the efforts of 8-year-oldIrène to net butterflies and of 14-month-old Eve to keep her footing on the uneven turf. Morecrucially, perhaps, Pierre had become involved in his work again.Pierre Curies agenda for Thursday, April 19, 1906, was that of a man fully engaged in bothprofessional and social life. After a luncheon of the Association of Professors of the ScienceFaculties, he was scheduled to go over proofs with his publisher and to visit a nearby library. He waslooking forward to entertaining a number of fellow scientists at the Curie home that evening.
IERRE CURIE WAS NOT FATED to complete that days activities. After working in the laboratoryall morning, he braved the heavy rain, umbrella in hand,and traveled across Paris to his luncheon meeting. Therehe spoke forcefully on a number of issues that concernedhim, including widening career options for junior facultyand drafting legal codes to help prevent laboratoryaccidents.After the meeting was over he headed out toward hispublisher in the rain, only to find that the doors werelocked because of a strike. Hurrying to cross the street,he was run over by a horse-drawn wagon with a load of When Pierres father learned that his son hadmilitary uniforms, weighing some six tons. He was killed been killed crossing a Paris street in traffic on a rainy day, he said, “What was he dreaminginstantly. of this time?” (Painting by Childe Hassam, 1893) “He wasnt careful enough when he was walking in the street, or when he rode his bicycle. He was thinking of other things.” --Pierre Clerc, the Sorbonne lab assistant who identified Curies body ARIE DID NOT LEARN the news that would transform her life until that evening. In shock, shebegan to attend to the necessary arrangements. She sentIrène next door to spend a few days with the neighbors,telegrammed the news to her family in Poland, andarranged to have the body brought to the house. Only afterPierres older brother, Jacques, arrived the next day fromMontpellier did she break down briefly. The news of PierreCuries death was carried in newspapers around the world,and Marie was inundated by letters and telegrams.The day after the funeral was notable for two reasons.Encouraged by Jacques, Marie returned to her work. Also, (above) Marie on the balcony of the DluskiJacques informed Marie that the French government apartment on rue dAllemagne, Paris. In theproposed to support her and the children with a state diary Marie began 11 days after Pierrespension. Marie was adamant in her refusal, insisting that death, she described putting a copy of this picture in Pierres coffin: “it was the pictureshe was perfectly capable of supporting herself and the of the one you chose as yourchildren. companion....” (Photo ACJC)“Crushed by the blow, I did not feel able to face the READ Curies wordsfuture. I could not forget, however, what my husbandused to say, that even deprived of him, I ought tocontinue my work.”If Marie was firm in rejecting the governments offer of
The Academy Debacle SCANDAL-DRIVEN PRESS is not a recent phenomenon. Pierre and Marie had been hounded by intrusive reporters as early as 1902, when news began to circulate about the medical uses of radium. After they won the Nobel Prize, reporters redoubled their attentions. But until late 1910 most press coverage of Marie Curie focused on the heroic labors of the blonde, foreign-born mother, wife, and then widow. Some of the press changed its tune, however, in November 1910, when Curie offered herself as a candidate for the single vacant seat for a physicist in the French Academy of Sciences. Her main rival for the seat was 66-year-old EdouardBranly,The right-wing French press, including the whose scientific reputation was based on his contributiondaily Excelsior, attacked Curies candidacy to wireless telegraphy. When Italian Gugliemo Marconi wasfor the French Academy with scurrilous and awarded the 1909 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work inracist claims based on supposedly scientific that field, many French patriots felt stung by Branlysanalyses of her handwriting and facial exclusion.characteristics.
Branlys claim to the Academy chair was alsochampioned by many French Catholics, whoknew that he had been singled out for honorby the Pope. For generations French politicshad been bitterly divided betweenconservative Catholics and liberalfreethinkers like Marie and her friends, andthe split ran through every public action.Among the false rumors the right-wing pressspread about Curie was that she was Jewish,not truly French, and thus undeserving of aseat in the French Academy. Although theliberal press came to her defense, the “An academic tournament: Will a woman enter theaccusations did the intended damage. Branly Institute?” Marie was weighed against EdouardBranly, whowon the election on January 23, 1911, by two taught at a leading Catholic institution.votes. Curie responded to the snubcharacteristically, by throwing herself into herwork.“The struggle between you and M. Branly will arise most strongly on the clericalissue....Against him will be the forward-looking and university elements of theAcademy....” --letter from Georges Gouy to Marie Curie, November 1910 The Langevin Affair N EVEN WORSE SCANDAL was to erupt before the end of 1911. That a woman who was left a widow at 38 should become romantically attached again is not surprising. But when Curies relationship with fellow physicist Paul Langevin moved beyond friendly collegiality to mutual love, she could not foresee where it would lead. Langevin, a brilliant former pupil of Pierres, was unhappily married to a woman who came from a similar working-class background but lacked his educational attainments. With four children to raise, Madame Langevin complained that Paul placed his commitment to science above the needs of his family. “They cant comprehend at his house that he refuses magnificent situations...in private industry to dedicate himselfPaul Langevin. The Langevins 1902 to science,” wrote a friend of Langevins. During the summermarriage had deteriorated to such an of 1911, as rumors about a relationship between Curie andextent by mid-July 1910 that Langevin Langevin began to spread, Madame Langevin beganleft the family home for an apartment in proceedings to bring about a legal separation.
Paris, not far from Curies lab. Curie was the only woman at the 1911conference organized and subsidized by Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay. Discussions at this gathering of the worlds top physicists opened the way to a new physics that would bring together relativity, the quantum, and radioactive atoms. Langevin, at far right, stands next to the young Albert Einstein. Rutherford stands above Curie, who confers with Poincaré.That autumn Curie, Langevin, and some 20 other top physicists attended an internationalconference in Brussels. While the scientists considered the challenge to modern physics presented bythe discovery of radioactivity, the French press got hold of intimate letters that Curie and Langevinhad exchanged (or forgeries based on them). HE WIDOW HAD TARNISHED the good name of her deceased husband! This was only one of the accusations hurled at Curie during her absence in Belgium. Resurrecting the lie thatshe was Jewish, some anti-Semitic newspapers decried the devastation wrought on a goodFrenchwoman by a foreign Jewish home wrecker. Other reporters spread false hints that Curiesaffair with Langevin had begun while Pierre was still alive, driving him to commit suicide in despair.“The fires of radium which beam so mysteriously...have just lit a fire in the heart of one ofthe scientists who studies their action so devotedly; and the wife and the children of thisscientist are in tears....”--Le Journal, November 4, 1911
Curie took a Bordeaux-bound train along with government staff, carrying the precious element in aheavy lead box. Unlike many, however, Curie felt her place was in Paris. After the radium was in aBordeaux safe-deposit box, she returned to Paris on a military train.X-rays could save soldiers lives, she realized, by helpingdoctors see bullets, shrapnel, and broken bones. Sheconvinced the government to empower her to set upFrances first military radiology centers. Newly namedDirector of the Red Cross Radiology Service, she wheedledmoney and cars out of wealthy acquaintances.She convinced automobile body shops to transform thecars into vans, and begged manufacturers to do their part This “petite Curie,” which brought X- rays to the Front in World War I, wasfor their country by donating equipment. By late October displayed in Paris in 1998 during the1914, the first of 20 radiology vehicles she would equip was commemoration of the 100thready. French enlisted men would soon dub these mobile anniversary of the discovery of radium.radiology installations, which transported X-ray apparatusto the wounded at the battle front, petites Curies (littleCuries). LTHOUGH CURIE HAD LECTURED about X-rays at the Sorbonne, she had no personal experience working with them. Intending to operate the petite Curie herself if necessary, she learned how to drive a car and gave herself cram courses in anatomy, in the use of X-ray equipment, and in auto mechanics. As her first radiological assistant she chose her daughter Irène, a very mature and scientifically well-versed 17-year-old. Accompanied by a military doctor, mother and daughter made their first trip to the battle front in the autumn of 1914. “The use of the X-rays during the war saved the lives of many wounded men; it also saved many from long suffering and lasting infirmity.”--Marie CurieMarie and Irène with X-ray Would Irène be traumatized by the sight of the soldiers horrificequipment at a military wounds? To guard against a bad reaction, Curie was careful to displayhospital. After training Irène asa radiologist for a year, Curie no emotion herself as she carefully recorded data about each patient.deemed her daughter capable ofdirecting a battle-frontradiological installation on herown.READ Curies wordsIrène followed her mothers example. Heedless of the dangers of over-exposure to X-rays, motherand daughter were inadequately shielded from the radiation that helped save countless soldiers lives.After the war the French government recognized Irènes hospital work by awarding her a militarymedal. No such official recognition came to Curie. Perhaps her role in the Langevin affair was not