Marie Curie

CURIE, Marie, (Manya Sklodowska), Polish/French physical chemist, 1867-1934. In 1891 she moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, she was penniless and often undernourished but still managed to graduate top of her class. Her thesis concerned radioactivity, which had only just been discovered by Becquerel. The Professor of Physics at the Sorbonne in 1901 was Pierre Curie, who married Marie. Later they discovered radium and did much work on magnetism. Her first Nobel Prize was in Physics in 1903, for the discovery of radium and exploring its properties (jointly with Pierre). Pierre died in a car crash in 1906, and Marie succeeded to his position as professor and was the first woman to teach there. In 1910, she isolated both radium and polonium, gaining another Nobel Prize in 1911 (but in Chemistry). radium and polonium were the first radioisotopes isolated. Becquerel had shared in their 1903 Nobel Prize for his observance of the existence of radioactivity. The element curium was named after Marie Curie. She founded the Radium Institute (Paris) in 1912. The use of radium irradiation treatment for cancer was a valuable result of her work, but caused her own death from leukaemia due to frequent exposure to radioisotopes. In 1914 (WW1), she devised a mobile x-ray unit and even drove it herself. Even after winning her second Nobel Prize, the French Academy of Sciences did not elect her to membership. It was many years later that they first admitted a woman. Marie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, and then the first and only woman awarded a second.


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