Marie Curie: The Most Radioactive Woman on Earth
Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist from Poland. She is famous for her research and discoveries in radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only woman to win two. She also was the only person to win in multiple sciences. Curie had many achievements, such as being the first female professor at the University of Paris, a theory of Radioactivity and techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes. Her main discoveries were two radioactive elements, Polonium and Radium. Not only did she make an impact on the world by scientific and radioactive discoveries, but she also helped in women’s place and equality in the scientific community. Curie is in the top 100 most influential people of the millennium in the rank #53, because of her work that influenced the modern world of today.
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Marie Skłodowska-Curie was born in Warsaw, in what was then called The Kingdom of Poland (now called Poland) in 1867. She went to some local schools, which gave her a general education, but thanks to her father, she got some scientific training. Since Warsaw was dominated by Russia, she had to leave to Cracow, which was then under the Austrian rule. Sklodowska went to Paris in 1891, to study Physics and the Mathematical Sciences at the Sorbonne University. During her studies in Paris, she met Pierre Curie, a professor in the School of Physics, and in 1895 they got married. Marie returned to Poland, hoping that she would be able to work in her chosen field, but was denied because she was a woman. She came back to Paris, and worked with her husband in the science department. Together they had two daughters, Irene and Eve. In 1903, Marie Curie gained her Doctor of Science degree, and in 1906 became the Professor of General physics, making her the first female professor at Sorbonne. Unfortunately, in the same year, Pierre Curie was killed in a road accident.
Up until Pierre Curie’s death, the Curie’s worked as a team. They worked in laboratories, testing radioactivity, and eventually discovering information on radioactivity, and radioactive elements. Marie Curie even said, “Neither of us could foresee that in beginning this work we were to enter the path of a new science which we should follow for all our future”. The results of all their hard work, was discovering the chemical element Polonium (named after her country, Poland) in 1898. During the same year, together they also discovered the chemical element, Radium. Both of the elements that they discovered are highly radioactive. Thanks to their teamwork in the physics department, they were awarded the Noble Prize in Physics in 1903, after publishing their work. After Pierre’s death, Marie Curie won her second Nobel Prize, this time for Chemistry, in 1911. This made her the first woman to win a Noble Prize, the only woman to win two Noble Prizes, and the only person to win in different sciences.
When World War I erupted, Curie became the Director of the Red Cross Radiology Service, and set up France’s first military radiology centre. “She directed the installation of twenty mobile radiological vehicles and another 200 radiological units at field hospitals in the first year of the war” (“DK Biography: Marie Curie by Vicki Cobb). Later, she started training women as aides. She also worked on a book, entitled Radioactivity, which was later published in 1935. Marie Sklodowska Curie died in 1934, from aplastic anemia, due to her long-time exposure to radiation, which can be very dangerous. She was buried in Sceaux, next to her husband Pierre, but in 1995 they were transferred to the Pantheon in Paris. “This made her the first, and only woman to be honoured with interment in the Pantheon on her own merits” (DK Biography: Marie Curie by Vicki Cobb). Although she died almost 80 years ago, her legacy still lives on.
After Marie Curie died, she left behind the impact that her life and discoveries made on the modern scientific world. She influenced lives of many, especially scientists. Her importance is reflected in the various awards bestowed on her (not to mention the noble prizes). Most of all, she proved that women can be just as intelligent as men, and can achieve the same things. For female scientists, Marie Curie is a true hero and inspiration. “In medicine, the radioactivity of radium appeared to offer a means by which cancer could be successfully attacked” (Cornell University professor L. Pearce Williams). Since radiation is often used to treat cancer, Curie saved many lives by her discoveries. In conclusion, Marie Curie deserves to be in the top 100 most influential people of the millennium, because of her impact in the science department.