Women have contributed to many scientific researches and discoveries, and made history! Without their successes, our knowledge wouldn’t be as advanced as it is today. This Women in Science series wants to present and acknowledge important women of history.
Marie Sklodowska-Curie: Researcher of radioactivity
Marie Curie was born in Warsaw in 1867 and was already taught science by her father. After being part of a student’s revolutionary organization, she left Warsaw and went in 1891 to Paris in order to go on with her studies at the Sorbonne, receiving the Licenciateships in Physics and Mathematical Sciences. In 1894, she met the Professor of Physics Pierre Curie, one year later they married. She became Head of the Physics Laboratory at the Sorbonne, obtained her Doctor of Science in 1903. After her husband’s death in 1906, she became Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences – the first women to do so. In 1914, the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris was founded, Marie Curie as Director.
Marie Curie and her husband had to do research under difficult and poor conditions in the laboratory. But when Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity in 1896, motivated them so that they finally discovered the isolation of polonium, named after Marie Curie’s home country, and the radium, developing methods for separating the radium form radioactive residues and analysing its therapeutic properties.
Marie Curie encourages using radium to alleviate suffering, for example during the World War I. She founded a radioactivity laboratory in Warsaw. Besides, she was part of the Conseil du Physique Solvay and of the Committee of Intellectual Co-operation of the League of Nations. She wrote Recherches sur les Substances Radioactives (1904), L’Isotopie et les Éléments Isotopes and the classic Traité’ de Radioactivité (1910).
Her important work was awarded with several prizes: honorary science awards, medicine and law degrees, honorary memberships of worldwide learned societies, Davy Medal of the Royal Society. Both, Marie and Pierre Curie, received the Nobel Prize of Physics in 1903. In 1911, she was awarded of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
In 1934, after being ill, Marie Curie died in Savoy, France.