Perhaps the most famous of all women scientists, Maria Sklodowska-Curie is notable for her many firsts:
She was the first to use the term radioactivity for this phenomenon.
She was the first woman in Europe to receive her doctorate of science.
In 1903, she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Physics. The award, jointly awarded to Curie, her husband Pierre, and Henri Becquerel, was for the discovery of radioactivity.
She was also the first female lecturer, professor and head of Laboratory at the Sorbonne University in Paris (1906).
In 1911, she won an unprecedented second Nobel Prize (this time in chemistry) for her discovery and isolation of pure radium and radium components. She was the first person ever to receive two Nobel Prizes.
She was the first mother-Nobel Prize Laureate of daughter-Nobel Prize Laureate. Her oldest daughter Irene Joliot-Curie also won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1935).
She is the first woman which has been laid to rest under the famous dome of the Pantheon in Paris for her own merits.
She received 15 gold medals, 19 degrees, and other honors.
Maria Sklodowska was born as the fifth and youngest
child of Bronsilawa Boguska, a pianist, singer, and teacher, and
Wladyslaw Sklodowski, a professor of mathematics and physics.
When she was little and living in Poland, her nickname was Manya.
From childhood she 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 clandestinely in the nationalist
"free university," reading in Polish to women workers. At the
age of 18 she took a post as governess, where she suffered an
unhappy love affair. From her earnings she was able to finance
her sister Bronia's medical studies in Paris, on the understanding
that Bronia would in turn later help her to get an education.
In 1891 Maria Sklodowska went to Paris and began to
follow the lectures of Paul Appel, Gabriel Lippmann, and Edmond
Bouty at the Sorbonne. There she met physicists who were already
well known--Jean Perrin, Charles Maurain, and Aimé Cotton.
Sklodowska worked far into the night in her students'-quarter
garret and virtually lived on bread and 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.
It was in the spring of this year that she met Pierre Curie.
Maria Sklodowska is daughter of a Polish freethinker but reared by a Catholic mother. She
abandoned the Church before she was 20 and her marriage with Pierre Curie was a purely civil
ceremony because she says in her memoir of him, Pierre belonged to no religion and I did not
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 (so called by Maria in honour of Poland)
in the summer of 1898, and that of
radium a few months later. Following Henri Becquerel's discovery
(1896) of a new phenomenon (which she later called "radioactivity"),
Maria Curie, looking for a subject for a thesis, decided to
find out if the property discovered in uranium was to be found
in other matter. She discovered that this was true for thorium
at the same time as G.C. Schmidt did.
Turning to minerals, her attention was drawn to
pitchblende, a mineral whose activity, superior to that of pure
uranium, could only be explained by the presence in the ore
of small quantities of an unknown substance of very high activity.
Pierre Curie then joined her in the work that she had undertaken
to resolve this problem and that led to the discovery of the
new elements, polonium and radium. While Pierre Curie devoted
himself chiefly to the physical study of the new radiations,
Maria Curie struggled to obtain pure radium in the metallic
state--achieved with the help of the chemist A. Debierne, one
of Pierre Curie's pupils. On the results of this research Maria
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.
The birth of her two daughters, Irene and Eve,
in 1897 and 1904 did not interrupt Maria's intensive scientific
work. She was appointed lecturer in physics at the École
Normale Supérieure for girls in Sévres (1900)
and introduced there a method of teaching based on experimental
demonstrations. In December 1904 she was appointed chief assistant
in the laboratory directed by Pierre Curie.
The sudden death of Pierre Curie (April 19, 1906) was a bitter
blow to Maria Curie, but it was also a decisive turning point
in her career: henceforth she was to devote all her energy to
completing alone the scientific work that they had undertaken.
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. In 1914 she saw the completion of
the building of the laboratories of the Radium Institute (Institut
du Radium) at the University of Paris.
Throughout World War I, Maria Curie, with the help of her daughter
Irène, devoted herself to the development of the use
of X-radiography. In 1918 the Radium Institute, the staff of
which Irène had joined, began to operate in earnest,
and it was to become a universal centre for nuclear physics
and chemistry. Maria Curie, now at the highest point of her
fame, and, from 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.
In 1921, accompanied by her two daughters, Maria Curie made
triumphant journey to the United States, where President Warren
G. Harding presented her with a gram of radium bought as the
result of a collection among American women. She gave lectures,
especially in Belgium, Brazil, Spain, and Czechoslovakia. She
was made a member of the International Commission on Intellectual
Co-operation by the Council of the League of Nations. In addition,
she had the satisfaction of seeing the Curie Foundation in Paris
develop and the inauguration in 1932 in Warsaw of the Radium
Institute, of which her sister Bronia became director.
On July 4, 1934, near Sallanches (France), Maria Sklodowska-Curie died of leukemia (aplastic pernicious anemia of rapid, feverish development), caused by her exposure to the radium that made her famous.
In 1995 Maria Sklodowska-Curie's ashes were enshrined in the
Panthéon in Paris; she was the first woman to receive
this honour for her own achievements.
Over one hundred scientists from 13 countries, among them 12 Nobel prize winners (Baruch Blumberg , Paul Crutzen , Chris de Duve , Leo Esaki , Jerome Friedman , Jerome Karle , Edvard Levis , Rudolf Mossbauer , Burton Richter , Joseph Rotblat , Sherwood Rowland  and Carlo Rubbia ) and Maria Sklodowska-Curie' granddaughter Helene Langevin-Joliot are attending the conference on "The discovery of radium and polonium - scientific and philosophical consequences" which opened in Warsaw Thursday (September 17, 1998) to discuss prospects of the contemporary physics and natural sciences, global ecological threats and the responsibility of scientists for the results of their research. The conference is the highlight of the two-years long now celebrations of the centenary of the discovery of radium and polonium by the Polish-born researcher Maria Sklodowska-Curie. President Aleksander Kwasniewski said he would like the conference to initiate a series of annual "Warsaw meetings" of scholars with politicians and representatives of economic circles, similar to the Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland.
Le Musée du Laboratoire Curie de l'Institut du Radium, Paris
Marie Curie-Sklodowska (1867-1934) from Centre de Calcul Recherche et Réseau Jussieu
Marie Curie - The Nobel Prize in Physics 1903 from The Nobel Foundation
Marie Curie - The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1911 from The Nobel Foundation
Portrait of Maria Sklodowska-Curie from California Institute of Technology
Photos of Marie Curie from American Institute of Physics
Maria Curie Walking Tour in Paris
Maria Curie - 1903 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Maria Curie - 1911 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Maria Sklodowska-Curie: Her life as a media compendium
Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie: An Extraordinary Life of Breaking Boundaries
Marie Curie - French Physicist
The Life and Work of Marie Curie
Marie Curie: Distinguished Physicist
Marie Curie: Remarkable Scientist
Curie, Marie (1867-1934)
Marie Sklodowska Curie
Marie Sklodowska Curie
Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934)
Marie Curie Fellowship Association
Marie Curie Fellowship Association - UK Group
Marie Curie Fellowship Association - French Group
Marie Curie Research Training Grants
European Forum for "Marie Curie Fellowship Association"
Université Pierre et Marie Curie
The Marie Curie Research Institute
Unidad de Ultrasonido Curie
Marie Curie Cancer Care
Ecole Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles of Paris
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