Women in Nuclear History: Marie Sklodowska-Curie

Maria Salomea Skłodowska–Curie, (Marie Curie) (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) was a Polish physicist, chemist and feminist.

This is the first installment of “Women in Nuclear History”. It was originally published on Facebook on October 2022. Since I am Polish by origin, Maria Curie is very close to my heart.

Maria Salomea Skłodowska–Curie, (Marie Curie) (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) was a Polish physicist, chemist and feminist. She did research on radioactivity mainly in France.

  1. Marie had a tragic early childhood. Aged 10, Marie’s sister died from typhus and two years later her mother died from tuberculosis.
  2. Marie’s father struggled to support his family, but Marie hoped to go to university, so she decided with her older sister Bronia to earn money as a governess for wealthy family and earn enough to start studies in the college in France.
  3. Poland was not a free country at that time. Warsaw was under Russian occupation, and women could not get to the college, so they had to go abroad to study.
  4. Pierre Jolie was impressed by Mary intellect, they got married after a year of knowing each other. She and her husband created a theory of radioactivity. They found different ways to separate radioactive isotopes. It was Pierre’s apparatus Marie was able to separate other radioactive elements
  5. Marie and Pierre discovered two new elements: radium and polonium. The term polonium was named after Poland, her home country.
  6. Marie Curie was the first woman to earn a Nobel Award. She is the only person to win it in two different fields: Physics and chemistry.
  7. Although Marie lived in France for the rest of her life the cause of Polish independence was very close to her heart. She visited Poland after WW I when Poland became independent and established a radium institute there.
  8. Albert Einstein Became her biggest fan and supporter and praised her intellect and will power. They did many hiking trips together.
  9. During World War I, Curie promoted the use of X-rays; she developed radiological cars – which later became known as “petites Curies” – to allow battlefield surgeons to X-ray wounded soldiers and operate more accurately. She, Irene her daughter, and many other women became the operators of these machines.
  10. She did a majority of her work and discoveries in a primitive shack, but when she became famous she founded Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw.
  11. She did a fundraising for radium in the US with help of Mrs. Meloney.  In 1921, U.S. President Warren G. Harding received her at the White House to present her with the 1 gram of radium collected in the United States,
  12. Near the 1920s, Curie and many of her colleagues began to suffer from symptoms of cancer. Curie began to lose her sight. She died in age of 67 in 1934, on aplastic anemia.