Marie Sklodowska – Curies Main Life Marie Sklodowska – Curies Main Life
Student Life in Paris: In 1891, Marie Sklodowska, arrived in Paris after a two day journey on a train from Poland. She had come a long way geographically and intellectually. For six years she had been studying physics and mathematics on her own. After passing a qualifying entry test to the School of Sciences, she enrolled in a degree program equivalent to a Masters of Physics in the United States. Marie was one of 23 young women out of 1,825 students in the School of Science at the Sorbonne. Her plan was to complete the physics degree and then get a teaching credential so that she could teach science.
Initially, Marie lived with her sister Bronia in a working class neighbourhood. Bronia had recently gotten married to another physician and Polish activist. They operated their medical practice from their apartment and Marie realized she could not study in their busy apartment. Her goal was total immersion in physics. To achieve this, she moved into a sixth floor apartment at that time, people who occupied the cheaper top floor apartments were not considered quite respectable but this did not bother Marie.
Pursued by Pierre Curie: In 1893, Marie completed her Masters degree in Physics, graduating first in her class. She continued her studies, enrolling next in a Masters program in Mathematics. She graduated in 1894, graduating second in her class. These were wonderful achievements for a student who was forced to study on her own for six years attending a secret "university" on and off. She remained in Paris after graduation and started research on magnetism, she needed more space but her lab was small.
A friend introduced her to another young scientist, Pierre Curie, who had some extra room. Not only did Marie move her equipment into his lab, Marie and Pierre fell in love and on July 26, 1895 they got married. When Pierre met Marie, he was working as an instructor at the EPCI, a technical college in Paris. His career had been stagnating for several years, until he his PhD thesis, and he was awarded his doctorate, though somewhat late in his career.
Accomplishments: Marie Curie got interested in the amazing revelations by the famous scientist Henry Becquerel on radioactivity. The later accomplishments of Marie Curie were based on the assumptions that radioactivity is an atomic property. Her partner Pierre Curie effectively assisted and guided her in each and every step. As a result of these efforts, they proved that Thorium was a radioactive element and it gives off rays in the same way as Uranium.
Maries systematic studies suggested the presence of other much powerful elements, the torbernite and pitchblende which was four times as active as Uranium itself. The greatest accomplishments of Marie Curie was when she discovered the two radioactive elements, Polonium in respect of her home country and Radium on 26 December 1898, one among the accomplishments of Marie Curie, still finds its application in most of the fields of science. Marie Curie took her doctorate in science by presenting these findings.
Pierre and Marie Curie in the laboratory. Prior 1907.
Nobel Prize: In 1903, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded Pierre Curie, Marie Curie, and Henri Becquerel the Nobel Prize in Physics, "in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel. Marie thus became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize. On receiving the Nobel Prize, Marie and Pierre Curie suddenly became very famous. The Sorbonne gave Pierre a professorship and permitted him to
establish his own laboratory, in which Marie became director of research. In 1911, she would receive the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, "in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element. She was the first person to win or share two Nobel Prizes, and one of only two people who have been awarded a Nobel Prize in two different fields, the other being Linus Pauling (Chemistry and Peace).
Pierre's Death: On April 19, 1906, Pierre was killed in a street accident. Walking across the Rue Dauphine in heavy rain, he was struck by a horse-drawn vehicle and fell under its wheels, fracturing his skull. Marie was devastated by her husband's death. On May 13, 1906, the Sorbonne physics department decided to retain the chair that had been created for Pierre and entrusted it to Marie together with full authority over the laboratory. She became the first female professor at the Sorbonne, and sought in her exhausting work regime a meaning for her life.
In the years following Pierre's death, Marie Curie was pre-occupied with many things besides her research. She would later hire Polish governesses to teach her daughters Irène and Eve Curie which she gave birth in 1897 and 1904, respectively, to teach them her native language, and send or take them on visits to Poland. She didn't like the French school system especially for Irene who was like Pierre in temperment. So she organized a school for some of the professor's children. Each professor taught informally in their living rooms at home, very much like the Flying University.
Marie Curie and her two daughters, Eve and Irène, in 1908.
World War 1 and X-ray machines: During the first World War, Marie Curie went to work for the French building and designing X-ray machines. Knowing that moving soldiers to a hospital before they needed surgery was not always possible, and with her daughter Irène they travelled along the front lines during the war. She found that the harmful properties of x-rays were able to kill tumours, she had made a conscious decision, however, not to patent methods of processing radium or its medical applications.
Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory with x-ray machine
Her Death: On July 4, 1934, Marie Curie died, killed by her own experiments in Paris from Aplastic Anaemia,. The first person who died from too much exposure to radiation. The damaging effects of ionizing radiation were then not yet known, and much of her work had been carried out in a shed without any safety measures. She was interred at the cemetery in Sceaux, alongside her husband Pierre. In 1995, in honour of their achievements, the remains of both were transferred to the Paris Panthéon.
She was the first woman to receive this honour for her own achievements. Her laboratory is preserved at the Musée Curie. Due to their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s (and even her cookbook) are considered too dangerous to handle. They are kept in lead-lined boxes; those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing. Marie Curie had brought herself up from poverty, struggling to get her education and succeeding brilliantly.
Her Legacy: The Curies' work contributed significantly to shaping the world of the 20th and 21st centuries, in both its physical and societal aspects. The result of the Curies' work Radium's radioactivity was so great that it could not be ignored. It seemed to contradict the principle of the conservation of energy and therefore forced a reconsideration of the foundations of physics. On the experimental level the discovery of Radium provided men like Ernest Rutherford with sources
of radioactivity with which they could probe the structure of the atom. As a result of Rutherford's experiments with alpha radiation, the nuclear atom was first postulated. In medicine, the radioactivity of radium appeared to offer a means by which cancer could be successfully attacked. Maria Sklodowska–Curie was probably the only person who was not corrupted by the fame that she had won.
Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, Statue Lublin, Poland
Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.... Marie Curie