Marie Curie

Marie Curie

Marie Skłodowska Curie, born November 7 1867 and died July 4 1934, was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. As the first of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes, she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two scientific fields. She was the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris in 1906.

She was born in Warsaw, in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. She studied at Warsaw’s clandestine Flying University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her elder sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. In 1895 she married the French physicist Pierre Curie, and she shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with him and with the physicist Henri Becquerel for their pioneering work developing the theory of “radioactivity”—a term she coined. In 1906 Pierre Curie died in a Paris street accident. Marie won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium, using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes.

Under her direction, the world’s first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms by the use of radioactive isotopes. In 1920 she founded the Curie Institute in Paris, and in 1932 the Curie Institute in Warsaw; both remain major centres of medical research. During World War I she developed mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals. While a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska Curie, who used both surnames, never lost her sense of Polish identity. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element she discovered polonium, after her native country.

Marie Curie died in 1934, aged 66, at the Sancellemoz sanatorium in Passy (Haute-Savoie), France, of aplastic anaemia from exposure to radiation in the course of her scientific research and in the course of her radiological work at field hospitals during World War I. In addition to her Nobel Prizes, she has received numerous other honours and tributes; in 1995 she became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in Paris’ Panthéon, and Poland and France declared 2011 as the Year of Marie Curie during the International Year of Chemistry. She is the subject of numerous biographical works, where she is also known as Madame Curie.

Resources

Who Was Marie Curie? by Megan Stine

Born in Warsaw, Poland, on November 7, 1867, Marie Curie was forbidden to attend the male-only University of Warsaw, so she enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris to study physics and mathematics. There she met a professor named Pierre Curie, and the two soon married, forming one of the most famous scientific partnerships in history. Together they discovered two elements and won a Nobel Prize in 1903. (Later Marie won another Nobel award for chemistry in 1911.) She died in Savoy, France, on July 4, 1934, a victim of many years of exposure to toxic radiation.

Marie Curie for Kids: Her Life and Scientific Discoveries, with 21 Activities and Experiments  by Amy M. O’Quinn

Marie Curie, nicknamed “Manya” by her family, reveled in reading, learning, and exploring nature as a girl growing up in her native Poland. She went on to become one of the world’s most famous scientists. Curie’s revolutionary discoveries over several decades created the field of atomic physics, and Curie herself coined the word radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person ever to win in two different fields—chemistry and physics.

Marie Curie for Kids introduces this legendary figure in all her complexity. Kids learn how Curie worked alongside her husband and scientific partner, Pierre, while also teaching and raising two daughters; how this intense scientist sometimes became so involved with her research that she forgot to eat or sleep; and how she struggled with health issues, refused to patent her discoveries (which would have made her very wealthy), and made valuable contributions during World War I.

Packed with historic photos, informative sidebars, a resource section, and 21 hands-on activities and experiments that illuminate Curie’s life and work, Marie Curie for Kids is an indispensable resource for budding scientific explorers. Kids can: examine real World War I X-rays; make a model of the element carbon; make traditional Polish pierogies; and much more. 

The Story of Marie Curie: A Biography Book for New Readers by Susan B. Katz

Marie Curie became one of the most celebrated scientists in history. Before she changed the world with her discoveries in physics and chemistry, Marie was an intelligent girl who studied hard to reach the top of her class. She overcame many challenges, including people who told her she couldn’t be a scientist because she was a woman. She didn’t let anything stop her, and her important research is still helping people today. Explore how Marie Curie went from being a young girl growing up in Poland to a famous, Nobel Prize-winning scientist.

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