Friday, September 18, 2015

Scientist of the Week

Born Maria Sklodowska on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland, Marie Curie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win the award in two different fields (physics and chemistry). Curie's efforts, with her husband Pierre Curie, led to the discovery of polonium and radium, and after Pierre's death, the further development of X-rays. 
Marie Curie made history in 1903 when she became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. She won the prestigious honor along with her husband and Henri Becquerel, for their work on radioactivity. With their Nobel Prize win, the Curies developed an international reputation for their scientific efforts, and they used their prize money to continue their research.
In 1906, Marie suffered a tremendous loss. Her husband Pierre was killed in Paris after he accidentally stepped in front of a horse-drawn wagon. Despite her tremendous grief, she took over his teaching post at the Sorbonne, becoming the institution's first female professor. Curie received another great honor in 1911, winning her second Nobel Prize-- this time in chemistry. She was selected 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 acceptance lecture.
Around this time, Curie joined with other famous scientists, including Albert Einstein and Max Planck, to attend the first Solvay Congress in Physics. They gathered to discuss the many groundbreaking discoveries in their field.
All of her years of working with radioactive materials took a toll on Curie's health. She was known to carry test tubes of radium around in the pocket of her lab coat. In 1934, Curie went to the Sancellemoz Sanatorium in 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, and has received numerous posthumous honors. In 1995, her and her husband's remains were interred in the Panthéon in Paris, the final resting place of France's 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 in her mother's footsteps, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935. Joliot-Curie shared the honor with her husband Frédéric Joliot for their work on their synthesis of new radioactive elements. Today several educational and research institutions and medical centers bear the Curie name, including the Institute Curie and the Pierre and Marie Curie University, both in Paris. (
--Haley Goodebiddle

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