About Marie Curie

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About Marie Curie

Maria Sklodowska was born in Warsaw on November 7, 1867. She was the fifth and last child of the piano player and teacher Bronislawa Boguska and of the mathematics and physics professor, Wladyslaw Sklodowski. Her childhood nickname was Manya. Her father was a freethinker and her mother was a Catholic. Her family valued education, and so she began her education early. She graduated from secondary school when she was sixteen, receiving a gold medal for her work. Unfortunately, her father made some bad investments and she had to go to work at a young age as a teacher, postponing the continuance of her own education. At the age of 18 she became a governess and put her sister, Bronia, through school with the agreement that Bronia would return the favour - and she did. In 1891 at the age of 24, Maria went to Paris to study mathematics, physics, and chemistry at the Sorbonne. She studied fervently, subsisting almost entirely on bread, butter, and tea. During her years there she changed the spelling of her name to the French version, Marie. In 1894 she met Pierre Curie, Professor in the School of Physics, and in the following year they got married. She succeeded her husband as Head of the Physics Laboratory at the Sorbonne, gained her Doctor of Science degree in 1903, and following the tragic death of Pierre Curie in 1906, she took his place as Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences, the first time a woman had held this position. She was also appointed Director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris, founded in 1914.

Mme. Curie, quiet, dignified and unassuming, was held in high esteem and admiration by scientists throughout the world. She was a member of the Conseil du Physique Solvay from 1911 until her death and since 1922 she was a member of the Committee of Intellectual Co-operation of the League of Nations. Her work is recorded in numerous papers in scientific journals and she is the author of Recherches sur les Substances Radioactives (1904), L'isotonie et les Éléments Isotopes and the classic Traité' de

Radioactivité (1910).

The importance of Mme. Curie's work is reflected in the numerous

awards bestowed on her. She received many honorary science, medicine, and law degrees and honorary memberships of learned societies throughout the world. Together with her husband, she was awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, for their study into the spontaneous radiation discovered by Becquerel, who was awarded the other half of the Prize. In 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, "in recognition of her services 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". She also received, jointly with her husband, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society in 1903, and in 1921 President Harding of the United States, on behalf of the women of America, presented her with one gram of radium in recognition of her service to science.

Top left: the first Nobel price
Bottom left: the second Nobel price

In 1925 Maria Sklodowska-Curie initiated the construction of the Radium Institute in Warsaw. It was finished in 1932 (left picture) and during the opening ceremony Mme Curie planted a chestnut tree (middle picture). In 1935 a monument was errected in her honour (right picture). Both the Institute, which is still used as a cancer hospital, and the monument can be visited in 15 Wawelska street.

The Maria Sklodowska-Curie Museum is located in the building where Marie was born, now in the old part of Warsaw (The New Town, 16 Freta St.), and can be visited Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.