Profile of Marie Curie
Bronya would go first and Marie would work as a
Hello I’m Milo for About.com and today we’re talking about the renowned physicist and chemist, Marie Curie. Curie was born Marya Sklodowska in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, which was then part of the Russian Empire. Her parents were both teachers and insisted that she receive a good education, even taking in paying lodgers to help with the costs. By all accounts, Marie was a brilliant student, but after graduating from high school in 1883, she was faced with the difficulty of enrolling in higher education (which, in Poland, was effectively closed to females). Her only chance was to go to Paris, but that took money. Since her sister Bronya also wanted to go to Paris to study, the two girls made a pact. Bronya would go first and Marie would work as a governess to help pay Bronya’s tuition at medical school. Then, when Bronya became a doctor, she would help pay for Marie’s education.It was a long wait, but in 1891, 23-year-old Marie was finally able to move to Paris and attend the Sorbonne University, where she studied mathematics and physics. It was here that she met fellow scientist Pierre Curie, becoming not only his laboratory collaborator, but also his wife. Marie became increasingly interested in the study of a mysterious new energy which had been recently discovered by Henri Becquerel. She worked tirelessly to purify uranium in order to advance its understanding, eventually discovering two entirely new chemical elements: polonium (named after Marie’s home country) and radium. Marie Curie also coined the word “Radioactivity” for the first time.The Curies’s work was nothing short of a revolution in the understanding of this curious new energy and they, along with Becquerel, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, with Marie the first woman ever to receive a Nobel Prize. In 1906, Marie Curie was devastated when Pierre was killed suddenly in a road accident. However, Marie continued her work and in 1911 was awarded a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry. Unfortunately, Marie’s success was ultimately her downfall. Prolonged exposure to radioactive materials had slowly poisoned her and led to her contracting aplastic anemia. She had spent years working in a makeshift laboratory without modern protective equipment and often kept radioactive materials in her pockets, all the while oblivious to the dangers it posed. Marie Curie died on July 4, 1934 leaving an immense legacy, not only to science, but also to the advancement opportunities for women. A year after her death, Marie Curie’s daughter, Irene, was also awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. For more excellent, insightful, and interesting information on the 20th Century, check us out at About.com.