Marie Curie, woman scientist,1867-1934, paved a way forward for women to study and work in science. She proved without a doubt that women can be/are smarter than men.
A Woman Scientist of Firsts
Marie Curie, woman scientist, was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (1903). She was the first person and only woman ever to win it in two fields of study: Physics and Chemistry.
Also, to add to her list of firsts, she and husband, Pierre Curie, were the first married couple to share a Nobel Prize. She became in 1906 the first woman to become a professor at the Sorbonne in Paris. With all these firsts, Marie paved the way for female scientists and women intellectuals.
Marie Is Inspiring Scientist
Marie Curie was and is still truly inspirational. Her story inspired my teenage self to study chemistry. Decades later, I am still in awe of her achievements as a woman and scientist.
As a science nerd, often lost in a world of books, I totally relate to her passion for science. But unlike my generation of girls, she could not attend university solely because she was female. Also, to add to that obstacle, her family were not wealthy and lived in Russian controlled Warsaw in Poland.
Determined to Study Science
Marie Curie woman scientist, came from a very cerebral family of teachers and mathematicians who had their fortunes affected by Russian control. Determined to learn, Marie studied at an underground university operating in Warsaw and then followed her older sister, who was intent on studying medicine, to Paris.
There, with the support of her sister, Marie studied and earned higher degrees in Physics and Chemistry. She met Pierre Curie, another scientist, and they married in 1895. Together, they would bring the chemistry of atomic physics to the forefront of research. Though history suggests Marie was the real brain behind their discoveries.
Marie Curie Woman Scientist, Names Radioactivity
Marie Curie woman scientist, focused on the little understood field of radioactivity, a term she herself coined. This field studied the emissions of particles by chemical elements.
This was another of Marie’s firsts, proving the divisibility of the allegedly indivisible atom. Today we appreciate the dangers of radioactive elements, how they cause cancer and destroy cells, but back then no one knew.
Radioactivity Danger to Marie
It is unbelievable now that Marie and her research companion/ husband Pierre worked with radioactive pitchblende for years in a dank, unventilated basement with no protection.
This ore contained the unknown radioactive elements, radium, named after its radiation and polonium named after Marie’s homeland. Pitchblende ore is more dangerous than uranium. They were studying its properties but were constantly exposed to its properties. They had no fear, only wonder at the luminosity of the elements.
Marie Curie Woman Scientist’s Voice Silenced
In 1903, The Royal Institution in London invited both Marie and Pierre to report their findings. Marie was unable to speak because of her gender. Her voice was silenced, but together, they wrote 32 scientific papers detailing their findings.
The field had now attracted interest from other scientists, and they had to act quickly before anyone else could claim the findings.
Honor and Tragedy in Science
If Pierre had not insisted, Marie’s name would not have been on the 1903 Nobel Prize. Remember, she was the first woman ever to win the accolade. Fortunately, she was onto this gender bias and wrote all her own reports in great detail.
She had to maintain this mentality all her life as soon she would lose Pierre. He tragically died in a traffic accident involving a horse-drawn carriage in 1906. Marie was left alone to forge ahead with her research. Their story is a great but tragic love story. But by then they had two daughters, Eve and Irene, so she had some solace.
Not Just Scientific Achievements
It was Pierre’s death that led to Marie’s appointment to the professorship at the Sorbonne, a post originally intended for Pierre. In 1910 she successfully isolated radium and the international unit of radioactivity was named the curie in her honor.
Her academic and scientific achievements are too numerous to list. However, Marie never rested from her discoveries.
Marie Curie Woman Scientist, Humanitarian
Like any discovery or invention, there are benefits and detractions. Radioactivity is a perfect example. Used wisely, it benefits many. Used irresponsibly, it is a disaster. A weapon of mass destruction, as the Atomic Bomb was to be in 1945.
Marie did not live to see this use of her discovery of the power within the atom. But she used radioactivity for good in WWI. She oversaw the development of mobile X-ray machines that were used in the field hospitals. An X-ray determined for the first time whether a limb could be saved from amputation. Many men owe their intact limbs to Marie’s invention.
Also, she pioneered radium tubes for sterilizing wounds. Her mobile units became known as ‘petites curies’. This humanitarian work was amazing apart from the scientific advances involved. Despite all this work for her adopted country, France, it would be years before France formally recognised her contribution by honoring her with the Legion of Honor in the 1920s. She continued working in the field of radioactivity with her daughter Irene, who would later win a Nobel Prize herself.
A Pioneer for Women
Francoise Giroud’s book, Marie Curie, A Life, highlights Marie’s role as a champion for women in scientific and civilian life. Much is written about Marie, and she is the subject of many films. The most recent, Radioactive (2019), starring Rosamund Pike.
Testaments to Marie are not just about her intellect and achievements, but detail her modesty, generosity and kindness in a world that set out to ban her from participation. Any of us who have been able to study and work in the world of men owe something to Marie. I remember being the only girl in my Physical Chemistry Lab. At least I was admitted, not banned because of my gender, as Marie was prior to 1900.
Marie Curie Woman Scientist’s Legacy to Science
Marie Currie, woman scientist and her amazing daughters, continued working in the scientific field until her death in 1934 from aplastic anaemia brought on by exposure to radioactivity. This comes as no surprise, considering she carried around tubes of her precious radioactive elements in her pockets. Her notebooks are still radioactive, as are her and Pierre’s bodies. They are buried in the Pantheon in lead-lined coffins.
Marie Currie, woman scientist, is the most prominent female scientist in history and one of the women pioneers who changed the world. She discovered radioactivity and new chemical elements, devised ways to use this discovery for the good of humanity. Her legacy is more than scientific. It is humanitarian as well. She paved the way for other women to study at university and her discoveries paved the way for many more. We can thank her for medical advances such as X-rays, radioisotopes and nuclear energy.
Marie Currie woman scientist, is another woman pioneer who changed the world. A notable modern scientist is Dr Lisa-Ann Gershwin, related to George Gershwin.
Little Known Fact about Marie
Marie Curie, along with her husband, Pierre, won a Nobel Prize in physics in 1903. In 1906, Pierre was killed in Paris by a passing horse and carriage.
A few years later, Marie started having an affair with a younger man, Paul Langevin. He had been one of her husband’s students. He was a physicist, handsome, dashing and daring. The only problem was he was married.
Madame Langevin found out about the affair, and three days before the Nobel Prize ceremony, in a most timely manner, she informed the newspapers about the affair between her husband and Madame Curie. Within 24 hours it was known worldwide.
The Nobel Prize committee promptly notified Marie Curie and asked her not to attend the ceremony. They were afraid of scandal, especially since the prize winners and others of importance were invited to have dinner with the king and other royalty following the ceremony.
This 1911 Nobel Prize in chemistry was very important. Marie had been the first female to ever win a Nobel Prize, and now she would be the first person, man or woman, to win two. Plus the two were in two different fields, physics and chemistry.
Marie discussed the issue with Albert Einstein. He had never been fazed by any scandals in his life, so he emphatically told her, “Go to Stockholm!”
photo Source Unsplash
Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The last Hotel. She co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.
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