Marie Curie was born in Warsaw in Poland on November 71867 to Bronsitwa, and Władysław Skłodowski. Her original name was Maria Sklodowsk. Her parents were teachers and she was the youngest and fifth child to her parents. She followed her father’s way in her career where she served as a math and physical instructor. At the age of 11, Marie lost her mother who died out of tuberculosis.
She had a great interest in the field of sciences. At a very young age, Marie used to spend time reading physics, chemistry and math books. She completed her master degree in physics in 1893 and degree in mathematics in the year 1894. Marie received a commission to do a study on different types of steel and their magnetic properties. To work on this assigned project, she required a laboratory to work in. It was then that she met the French physicist Pierre Curie. Marie and Pierre Curie decided to get married and they were blessed with a girl baby, Irene, after a couple of years.
Marie began looking for a research topic that would earn her a doctorate in science. Marie Curie used a property that Becquerel had discovered. When uranium rays passed through the air near an electrical measuring instrument, he found, the instrument detected a difference. Marie Curie used a device called the curie electrometer, which was founded by her husband some years before, to detect and measure the difference in the tiny electric changes that uranium rays caused when it was passed through the air. During this experiment, Marie discovered that more uranium atoms in a substance, the more intense the rays the substance gave off. She tested with other elements too. She discovered that thorium compounds also gave off “Becquerel rays.” This revolutionary idea created the field of atomic physics and Curie herself coined the word radioactivity to describe the phenomena.
Working with the mineral pitchblende, the pair discovered a new radioactive element in 1898. They named the element polonium, after Marie’s native country of Poland. They also detected the presence of another radioactive material in the pitchblende, and called that radium. In 1902, the Curies announced that they had produced a decigram of pure radium, demonstrating its existence as a unique chemical element.
Marie Curie was the first women laureate in the world who made history in 1903 to receive the Nobel Prize in physics for her work on Radioactivity. When her husband died, she took over her husband’s teaching post at the Sorbonne, becoming the institution’s first female professor. In 1911, Curie received another great honour by winning her second Nobel Prize in chemistry. She was the first scientist to win two Nobel Prizes.
The Curie’s research was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During the First World War, in 1914, Curie helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines. These medical vehicles earned the nickname “Little Curies.” She pioneered in the research that led to using the radioactivity in the treatment of cancer. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw which still serves as a major centre for Medical research in the world.
She received many medals and honours for her eminent contribution to the field of Sciences. Following were some of the honours received by her.
Despite her success, Marie continued to face great opposition from male scientists in France, and she never received significant financial benefits from her work. She died on 4 July 1934 from leukaemia, caused by exposure to high-energy radiation from her research. Her footprints are a great inspiration for young women to face the world and conquer the world.