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Marie Curie (1867–1934)

As a child in Poland, Marya Skoldowska dreamed of studying in Paris. First she had to work as a governess to pay for her sister's education. After Bronya had graduated from medical school, she in turn paid for Marya to come to Paris.

In Paris, Marya—or Marie—studied Physics, graduating in first place. For her doctorate, Marie followed the recent discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel. Marie showed that radioactivity was a property of certain elements, and isolated several such elements. In 1903 Marie was awarded her PhD for this research, becoming the first woman in France to gain this degree. In the same year, Marie was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics along with Becquerel, and her husband Pierre, who had assisted with her research.

In 1904 Pierre became professor of Physics at the Sorbonne. However two years later, he was killed in a road accident. Marie was offered the professorship, and accepted. This meant less involvement in direct research, but Marie was still able to win a second Nobel Prize, for Chemistry in 1911.

During World War I, Marie organised X-ray services for the hospitals. She was deeply opposed to this war and all her life was a committed pacifist although she spoke out strongly against the Nazi government in Germany in her last years.

Marie Curie died of leukaemia in 1934, probably caused by her long exposure to radiation without being aware that she needed to take precautions. Marie Curie's laboratory notebooks are still considered to be too radioactive to handle safely.


Marie Curie
magnifyMarie Curie


Marie Curie
magnifyMarie Curie instructing students in radiology.
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