Marie Curie Biography

Maria Sklodowska-Curie (born in Warsaw, Poland, 7 November 1867 - died July 4, 1934 at age 66 years) was a pioneer in the field of radiology and winner of the Nobel Prize twice, in 1903 the Physics and Chemistry in 1911. She founded the Curie Institute. Together with her husband, Pierre Curie, she discovered the element radium.

Curie was one of the few people who won two Nobel Prizes in two fields, is one of the foremost researchers in the field of radiation and its effects as a pioneer of radiology.

Marie Curie grew up in Poland in a family of teachers. Because of the crisis in Poland, he was destitute and had to live frugally. Is even worse, he must clandestinely to learn science. In 1891, Marie continued her study of Physics and Mathematics at the University of Sorbonne. Only after he went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, then he can be more free to do research until the end of his lunch that he was able to isolate radium from his old laboratory is simple; from this initial popularity.


Maria Sklodowska was born in Warsaw, Russian partition of Poland, on November 7, 1867, the fifth and youngest son of the famous teacher and Władysław Skłodowski Bronisława. Older siblings Maria Zofia (born 1862), Józef (1863), Bronisława (1865) and Helena (1866).

My father's grandfather Józef Maria Skłodowski has become a respected teacher in Lublin, where he teaches young Boleslaw Prus. Władysław Skłodowski his father taught mathematics and physics, subjects that Maria is to pursue, and also director of two Warsaw gymnasia for boys, in addition to lodging a boy in the family home. Mary the mother of the prestigious Warsaw Bronisława operated boarding schools for girls, he suffered from tuberculosis and died when she was twelve.
Maria's father was an atheist; her mother a devout Catholic.

Two years earlier, Mary's oldest sister, Zofia, died of typhus. The death of his mother and sister, according to Robert William Reid, causing Maria to give up Catholicism and became an agnostic.

When he was ten years old, she began attending a boarding school that his mother had been operated while he was healthy; next Maria attended the gymnasium for girls, from which he graduated on June 12, 1883. He spent the next year in the countryside with his father's relatives, and later with his father in Warsaw, where he was tutoring some.

On either side of the father and mother, the family had lost their property and wealth through involvement in the Polish national patriotic uprising led to the restoration of the independence of Poland (the most recent January Revolt). This condemned each subsequent generation, including that of Maria, older sisters and brothers, to fight hard to get ahead in life.

Elderly Żorawski

Mary made a deal with her sister, Bronisława, that he would provide financial assistance for medical studies in Paris Bronisława, in exchange for similar assistance two years later. In connection with this, Maria took a position as governess: the first with a family lawyer in Kraków, then for two years with the family landed in Ciechanow, the Żorawskis, which is a relative of his father. While working for the family, he fell in love with their son, Kazimierz Żorawski, who replied with this leading mathematician in the future. His parents, but rejected the idea that married relatively poor, and Kazimierz not able to fight them. Maria lost its position as a nanny. He found again with the Fuchs family in Sopot, on the Baltic coast, where he spent the next year, while helping his brother financially.

In early 1890, Bronisława, several months after he married Kazimierz Dłuski, invited Mary to join them in Paris. She refused because she can not pay university tuition fees and still rely Żorawski married Kazimierz. He returned to his father's house in Warsaw, where he remained until the fall of 1891. He tutored, studied at the clandestine Floating University, and began his scientific practical training (1890-91) in the laboratory at the Museum of Industry and Agriculture in Krakowskie, Przedmiescie 66 near the Old City of Warsaw.  The laboratory is run by her cousin Józef Boguski, who has been an assistant at Saint Petersburg to the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev large.

In October 1891, at the urging of her brother, and after receiving a letter from Żorawski, where he would break relations with him, he decided to go to France after all.
Maria lost touch with Żorawski is tragic for both. He soon received a doctorate and pursue an academic career as a mathematician, a professor and rector of the University of Kraków and Warsaw Learning Society president. However, as a parent and a professor of mathematics at Warsaw Polytechnic, he would sit thoughtfully in front of the statue of Maria Sklodowska who had founded the Radium Institute in 1935 before he had founded in 1932.
In Paris, she briefly found shelter with her sister and brother-in-law before renting a loft primitive [and continued his studies of physics, chemistry, and mathematics at the Sorbonne (University of Paris).

Sklodowska studying in the daytime and nighttime tutored, almost did not get him to keep. In 1893, he was awarded a degree in physics and started working in industrial labs at home Lippman. Meanwhile he continued his studies at the Sorbonne, and in 1894, earned a degree in mathematics.
In the same year, Pierre Curie entered her life. He is an instructor in the School of Physics and Chemistry, École Supérieure de physique et de Chimie de la ville industrielles de Paris (ESPCI). Sklodowska start a scientific career in Paris with an investigation of the magnetic properties of various steels, but their common interest in an attractive magnet Sklodowska Curie and together.

Departure for the summer to Warsaw only enhance their mutual feelings of each other. He is still working under the illusion that he would be able to return to Poland and worked in his field of study. When he was denied a place at the University of Krakow just because she's a woman, he returned to Paris [19] Almost a year later, in July 1895, he and Pierre Curie married. And after the two physicists hardly ever leave their labs. They share two hobbies, long bike trips and trips abroad, which brought them even closer. Mary has found a new love, couples, and scientific collaborators to whom he could rely.

The new element

In 1896 Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium salts emit a beam that resembles the X-rays in their penetrating power. He pointed out that this radiation, unlike phosphorescence, did not depend on outside energy sources, but it seems to arise spontaneously from the uranium itself. Becquerel had, in fact, discovered radioactivity.

Curie decided to look into the uranium beam as the field of research for the thesis. He uses a clever technique to probe the sample. Fifteen years earlier, her husband and his brother had found electrometer, sensitive devices for measuring electrical charge. Using the Curie electrometer, she discovered that uranium rays caused the air around the sample to conduct electricity. By using this technique, the first result is found that the activity of uranium compounds depend only on the amount of uranium present. He has shown that the radiation was not the result of multiple molecular interactions, but must come from the atom itself. In scientific terms, this is an important part of the job he was doing.

Curie systematic study has included two uranium minerals, pitchblende and torbernite (also known as chalcolite). His electrometer showed that pitchblende four times as active as uranium itself, and chalcolite two times more active. He concluded that, if the results of his previous activities related to the quantity of uranium that is true, then these two minerals must contain small amounts of some other substances are much more active than uranium itself.

The idea [writes Reid] are its own; no one to help him formulate it, and although he took it to her husband thinks she clearly established her ownership of it. He then noted the fact in his biography of her husband twice to ensure there are no any possibility of ambiguity. This  probably already in the early stages of his career [ realized that ... many scientists would find it hard to believe that a woman could be capable of original work in which he was involved.
In his systematic search for other substances besides uranium salts that emitted radiation, Curie discovered the element thorium, too, is radioactive.

He is very aware of the importance of promptly published the findings and thus establish priorities. Is not Becquerel, two years earlier, presented his findings to the Académie des Sciences a day after he succeeded, the credit for the discovery of radioactivity, and even a Nobel Prize, will go to Silvanus Thompson instead. Curie choose how fast the same publication. Paper, give a brief and simple explanation of his work, presented him to the Académie on 12 April 1898 by her former professor, Gabriel Lippmann.

Even so, as Thompson has been beaten by Becquerel, Curie so beaten in the race to tell the discovery that thorium-ray release in the same way as uranium. Two months earlier, Gerhard Schmidt has published its own findings in Berlin.

At that time, however, no one else in the world of physics has seen what punishment Curie noted in his paper, illustrates how much greater is the activity of uranium ores and uranium chalcolite of itself: "The fact is remarkable, and leads to belief that this mineral may contain elements that are far more active than uranium. "He would later recall how he felt" a passionate desire to verify this hypothesis as soon as possible.

Pierre Curie sure that what he found was not a spurious effect. He was so interested that he decided to drop his work on crystal temporarily and to join him. On 14 April 1898, they optimistically weighed 100 gram sample of pitchblende and ground with a pestle and mortar. They did not realize at the time that what they are looking for is present in minute amounts that they finally have to process tons of ore.

When they do not realize the adverse effects of radiation exposure to workers in jobs that are not protected with chronic radioactive substances, Curie and her husband did not know what price they will pay the impact of their research on their health.

In July 1898, Curie and her husband published a paper together, announced the existence of an element which they named "polonium" in honor of her native Poland, which will be for twenty years remained partitioned among the three kingdoms. On December 26, 1898, Curie announced the existence of a second element, which they named "radium" for its intense radioactivity - a word that they were created.

Pitchblende is a mineral complex. Separation of chemical constituents is an arduous task.The discovery of polonium have been relatively easy; it resembles a chemical element bismuth, and polonium is the only bismuth-like substances in the ore. Radium, however, is more elusive. It is closely linked, chemical, for barium, and uranium ores containing elements. By 1898, the Curies had obtained traces of radium, but the amount is sufficient, not contaminated with barium, still out of reach.

The Curie perform the difficult task of separating the radium salt by differential crystallization. Of a ton of pitchblende, one-tenth gram of radium chloride separated in 1902. In 1910, Curie, working without her husband, who had been killed accidentally by a horse car in 1906, has been isolated pure radium metal.

In an unusual decision, Marie Curie intentionally refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process, so that the scientific community could do research unhindered.
In 1903, under the supervision of Henri Becquerel, Marie was awarded the DSC from the University of Paris.

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 done their research on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel."
Curie and her husband can not go to Stockholm to receive the prize personally, but they share with acquaintances of poor financial results, including students.
On receiving the Nobel Prize, Marie and Pierre Curie suddenly became very famous. Professor of the Sorbonne gave Pierre and allowed him to establish his own laboratory, where the Curie became the director of research.

In 1897, and 1904 respectively, the Curie gave birth to their daughter, Irène and Eve Curie. He then hired Polish nanny to teach her children the native language, and send or take them on a visit to Poland.
Curie was the first woman to receive Nobel Prizes. Eight years later, in 1911, he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, "in recognition of service 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."

A month after receiving the 1911 Nobel Prize, he was hospitalized with depression and kidney disease.
Curie was the first to win or share two Nobel Prizes. He was one of only two people who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in two different areas, others to Linus Pauling (for chemistry and peace). However, in 1911 the French Academy of Sciences did not choose him to be a member by two votes. Chosen instead was Édouard Branly, an inventor Guglielmo Marconi who had helped develop wireless telegraphy It will be doctoral students from Curie, Marguerite Perey, who will become the first woman elected to membership in the Academy -. More than half a century later, in 1962.

Pierre's death

On 19 April 1906 Pierre was killed in a road accident. Walking in the Rue Dauphine in heavy rain, he was struck by a horse-drawn vehicle and fell under the wheels;. Skull fracture  Although it has been previously speculated that he may have been weakened by prolonged exposure to radiation, there is no indication that this contributed to the accident.
Curie was devastated by the death of her husband. He noted that, at that time he has suddenly become "the incurable loneliness and woe." On May 13, 1906, Sorbonne physics department decided to retain the seat that has been created for Pierre Curie and Curie entrusted to them with full authority over the laboratory. This enabled him to emerge from the shadow of Pierre. He became the first woman to become a professor at the Sorbonne, and at the grueling regime of work, he searched for a meaning to his life.

Recognition for his work grew to new heights, and in 1911 the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded her second Nobel Prize, this time for Chemistry. A delegation of men celebrating the Polish study, led by novelist Henryk Sienkiewicz world famous, encouraged him to return to Poland and continued his research in his native country.

In 1911 it was revealed that in 1910-11 had an affair Curie than about one year duration with physicist Paul Langevin, a former student of Pierre Curie . He was a married man is estranged from his wife. This resulted in a press scandal exploited by her academic opponents. Although fame as a scientist working for France, public attitudes tend towards xenophobia-as a cause-Dreyfus affair which also trigger false speculation that Curie was a Jew. He was five years older than the Langevin and portrayed in the tabloids as a home-wrecking.  Then, the Curie granddaughter, Hélène Joliot, granddaughter married Langevin, Michel Langevin.
Both Curie Nobel Prize, in 1911, enabled him to speak to the French government funded the construction of a private Radium Institute (Institut du radium, now Institut Curie), which was built in 1914 and where the research was conducted in chemistry, physics, and medicine. Institute be a container of Nobel Prize winners, producing four more, including her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and son-in-law, Frédéric Joliot-Curie.

World War I

During World War I, Marie saw a need for the field of radiology center near the front line to help surgeons battlefield. After quickly learning the mechanics of radiology, anatomy and automotive he acquired x-ray equipment, vehicles, generators and help develop a mobile radiographic unit, which became known as the Curie Petites ("Little Curies"). He directed the installation of twenty radiology vehicles and another 200 mobile radiology unit at the field hospital in the first year of the war. It is estimated that more than one million wounded soldiers were treated with x-rays of his unit.

After that, Marie produced a hollow needle containing 'radium emanation', colorless radioactive gas given off by radium, later identified as radon that will be used to sterilize the infected tissue. Provided Curie radium, from her own personal supply of one gram.
Also, immediately after the war began, he tried to donate his gold Nobel Prize medal for the war effort, but officials refused to accept them. He is also an active member in the committee of the Polish Polonia in France dedicated to the cause of Poland.

Post-war years

Curie in 1921 was welcomed triumphantly as he toured the United States to raise funds for research on radium. Mrs. William Brown Meloney, after the interview Curie, raising money to buy one gram of radium and the traveling public. President Warren Harding received her at the White House.
His second tour of America, in 1929, successfully completing the Warsaw Radium Institute, founded in 1925 with his brother as director Bronisława.
This disruption of the scientific work and the attendant publicity caused discomfort, but given the resources needed for the job.
In later years he led the Curie Curie Pavilion, a radioactivity laboratory created for her by the Institut Pasteur and the University of Paris. It was one of the big four-laboratory study of radioactivity, the other is the Cavendish Laboratory, the Ernest Rutherford; Institute for Radium Research, Vienna, by Stefan Meyer, and the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry, with Otto Hahn and Lise Meitner.


Curie visited Poland for the last time in spring 1934.Only few months later, on July 4, 1934, Curie died in Sancellemoz Sanatorium in Passy, ​​in Haute-Savoie, eastern France, from aplastic anemia contracted from long term exposure to radiation. Damaging effects of ionizing radiation is not then known, and many of his works have been carried out in the barn, with no security measures are appropriate. He has conducted test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket and put it in his desk drawer, commented on the blue-green light enough that the substances gave off in the dark. [41] Marie also exposed to x-rays from unshielded equipment while serving as a radiologist at a field hospital during the war.

He was interred in the cemetery at Sceaux, with her husband Pierre. Sixty years later, in 1995, to honor their achievements, the remains of the two moved to the Panthéon in Paris. He became the first - and so far the only - woman to be honored with burial in the Panthéon on its own merits.

Laboratory is preserved in the Musée Curie.
Because of their level of radioactivity, the letters from the 1890's considered too dangerous to handle. Even the cookbook is very radioactive. They are stored in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.


The work of Curie 'is the time of the decision. Radium radioactivity is so large that it can not be ignored. It seems contrary to the principle of conservation of energy and therefore forced a reconsideration of the foundations of physics. At the experimental discovery of radium provided men like Ernest Rutherford with sources of radioactivity that they can investigate the atomic structure. As a result of Rutherford's experiment with alpha radiation, the nuclear atom was first postulated. In medicine, the radioactivity of radium appeared to offer a means by which cancer can be successfully attacked.

If the work of Marie Curie helped turn an idea founded on the physics and chemistry, it has had an effect as large in the social sphere. To achieve the scientific achievements, he must overcome the obstacles placed in the street because she was a woman, both in his native and adoptive countries. Aspects of life and his career is highlighted in Françoise Giroud Marie Curie: A Life, which emphasizes the role of Curie as a feminist predecessors. He was ahead of his time, free, independent, and in addition it is not broken. Albert Einstein is reported to have said that he was probably the only person who is not corrupted by the fame that he had won.

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