MARIE CURIE Biography - Famous Scientists


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Marie Curie isolated radium, won two Nobel Prizes, was first female instructor         
at Sorbonne, held degrees in math, physics and chemistry.                               
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She was renowned for her         
work with radioactivity, and it was that work that would eventually end her life.       
She was born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867. She was the       
fifth and last child of piano player and teacher Bronsilawa Boguska and                 
mathematics and physics professor, Wladyslaw Sklodowski. Her childhood nickname         
was Manya. Her father was a freethinker and her mother was a Catholic.                 
Her family valued education, and so she began her education early. She possessed       
a remarkable memory. She graduated from secondary school when she was sixteen,         
receiving a gold medal for her work. Unfortunately her father made some bad             
investments and she had to go to work at a young age as a teacher, postponing           
the continuance of her own education. At the age of 18 she became a governess,         
and put her sister, Bronia, through school with the agreement that Bronia would         
return the favor- and she did.                                                         
In 1891 at the age of 24, Sklodowska went to Paris to study mathematics, physics       
and chemistry at the Sorbonne. She studied fervently, and subsisted almost             
entirely on bread, butter and tea. During her years there she changed the               
spelling of her name to the French version, Marie.                                     
She met Pierre Curie in Paris while she studied there, and they soon married in         
a Civil ceremony. Marie had left the Catholic church when she was 20 and Pierre         
was not a member of any religion, either.                                               
Marie and Pierre Curie devoted themselves to the study of radioactivity, and           
were among the first to work with radium and polonium. It was Marie Curie who           
coined the term radioactivity, and she named Polonium after her home country of         
Poland. Pierre was chiefly concerned with the physical properties of radium and         
polonium, while Marie worked to isolate radium in its pure state. She and one of       
Pierre's students, Mr. Debierne, accomplished this, and Marie received her             
doctorate in 1903 based on her findings. Also in 1903, the Curies won the Nobel         
Prize for their work along with French physicist, Antoine Henri Bacquerel, who         
had first discovered natural radioactivity.                                             
Marie and Pierre Curie had two daughters. Irene was born in 1897 and Eve was           
born in 1904. During their childhoods Marie was a physics instructor at the             
Normal Superior School for girls in Sévres, France. In 1904 she became chief           
assistant in Pierre's laboratory.                                                       
In 1906, Pierre Curie, whose health had begun to fail due to the work with             
radioactivity, was hit by a car and killed. This was a deep tragedy for the             
family, but it strengthened Marie's resolve to continue their work. On May 13,         
she was appointed to fill Pierre's position and became the first female                 
professor at the Sorbonne.                                                             
In 1911 Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize for her achievement of isolating radium         
and examining its chemical properties. She was the first person ever to receive         
two Nobel Prizes. In 1914 she co-founded the Radium Institute in Paris and was         
it's first Director. During the first World War, Curie and her daughter, Irene,         
taught a team of 150 nurses to use X-rays so that bullets could be located in           
injured soldiers. In 1921 she traveled to the United States where President             
Warren Harding presented her with a gram of radium purchased with a collection         
taken up among American Women. In 1922, as a member of the French Academy of           
Medicine she devoted her work to medical applications of radioactive substances.       
In 1932, the Radium Institute of Warsaw, Poland opened, under the directorship         
of Marie's sister, Bronia.                                                             
Marie Curie died at the age of 67 in 1934 of leukemia, brought on by her years         
of exposure to high levels of radiation. Her cremated remains are kept in the           
Pantheon in Paris. She was the first woman to be honored in this way for her           
personal achievements. After her death the Radium Institute was renamed the             
Curie Institute.                                                                       
In 1935, the Curie's daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie won a Nobel Prize for                 
Chemistry, making them the first mother and daughter to share this honor.