Marie Curie

Discoverer of radium polonium, and the nature of radioactivity, Marie Curie (1867-1934) ws born to a family of Polish intellectuals who encouraged her scientific interests. She distinguished herself in physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne, on a scolarship so meager she could barely afford to eat, and in 1895 married fellow physicist Pierre Curie. Stimulated by Henri Becquerel’s discovery of radioactivity, the two pioneered this new field of physics, isolating new radioactive elements from mineral matter and contributing important experimental data to problems of matter-energy interactions. The Curies shared many awards for their work, including the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics. (Pierre declined the Légion d’Honneur, in protest of its being awarded only to men.) After Pierre’s untimely death in 1906, Marie continue dher work wiht radium, gaining a second Nobel Prize (chemistry) in 1911. The Curies’ elder daughter, Iène Joliot-Curie, herself became a Nobel Prize-winning physicist; their younger daughter Eve produced a biography of Marie Curie that remains among the best.

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