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The Awesomely Inspiring Accomplishments of Marie Curie

Accomplishments of Marie Curie
Marie Curie was the first woman and the only winner of two Nobel prizes in two different sciences. She is remembered for her work in Physics and Chemistry. To know about the major accomplishments of Marie Curie, read on.
ScienceStruck Staff
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
Physicist and chemist Marie Curie is remembered for her pioneering research in radioactivity. She was born Maria Salomea Skłodowska, on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland, then a part of the Russian Empire. In 1891, she moved to Paris and took the citizenship of France. Her achievements in science earned her international acclaim and her name found an important place in the list of world-famous scientists. Let us look at the accomplishments of this iconic figure in scientific research - Marie Curie.
Marie Curie identified the radioactive properties of elements like thorium and minerals of uranium. She deduced that uranium rays lend conductivity to surrounding air.
She discovered the elements Polonium and Radium. She coined the term radioactivity and also pioneered in the research that led to using radioactivity in treating cancer.
Marie Curie Nobel Prizes
Marie Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize. She is the first and only woman to receive it in two sciences.
Marie Curie received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, which she shared with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel. It was given for her work in radiation.
In 1911, Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of polonium and radium and her study of the nature and compounds of radium.
She was the proud winner of the Davy Medal in 1903 and the Matteucci Medal in 1904. She was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1909 and the Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society in 1921. She received honorary doctorates from a number of universities.
She was appointed as Director of the Physics Laboratory at Sorbonne, Paris. She was the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris. She was the Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences. In the Radium Institute of the University of Paris, she was the Director of the Curie Laboratory.
Curie's contribution during the first world war was commendable. Understanding the need of the time, preferring social cause over scientific research, she sought to provide relief to those injured on the battlefield. She developed portable radiology units that would assist field surgeons. She made hollow needles containing radon that could be used for sterilization. Thanks to her effort, the lives of many soldiers could be saved.
Marie Curie radiology center
Marie Curie became the Director of the Red Cross Radiology Service. The first military radiology center in France was set up by her.
Marie Curie founded the Radium Institute in Warsaw in 1932 which was renamed as Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology post World War II. She made the institute a major research center. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw. They are major centers of medical research today.
The Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, a metro station in Paris, an asteroid named '7000 Curie', and a nuclear reactor named 'Maria' commemorate her. The radioactive element Curium has been named after Marie and Pierre Curie. Two museums are devoted to her and there are several institutes and fellowships that bear her name. She has appeared on bills, stamps, and coins.
Her death in 1934 meant the loss of one of the most prominent figures in the field of science. Sixty years after this, the remains of Marie and Pierre Curie were reburied in France's national mausoleum, the Pantheon. Till date, Marie Curie is the first and the only woman to be entombed in the Pantheon on her own merits.
Life of Marie Curie
Childhood
During the early years of her life, Marie Curie had to face several difficulties on financial grounds. The sudden demises of Maria's eldest sister and her mother added to the difficulties. Maria was strong-willed and determined to obtain education. She did not let her personal loss affect her studies. She graduated from a female gymnasium in 1883 and spent the following year with her relatives.
Pursuing Education Against Odds
Marie wanted to pursue higher education. However, women in those times were not allowed that. Along with her elder sister Bronislawa (Bronya), Maria studied in the Floating University, an underground educational enterprise in Warsaw. She received training in a laboratory at the Museum of Industry and Agriculture. Later, she had an agreement with Bronya that they would support each other's education.

Maria sent Bronya to Paris for medical studies and funded her education by making an earning. She served as a governess to a lawyer's family in Krakow, then to a landed family in Ciechanow, and later to the Zorawskis. In a village far away from Warsaw, Marie earned money by teaching the children of a beet-sugar factory owner. She spent her spare time reading and learning laboratory science from a chemist at the sugar factory, who secretly taught her.

She returned to Warsaw in 1889. For the next two years, she continued working while studying chemistry during her free time. Since childhood, she knew that she had an aptitude for math, physics, and chemistry. In pursuit of education, she left her country and moved to France in 1891. She dropped her name Maria, took up the name Marie and began studying at the University of Paris in France. Her diligence, hard work, and determination paid off and she obtained a degree in physics in 1893 and one in mathematics in 1894.
In 1894, Marie's work in Physics earned her a scholarship and she was assigned to study the magnetic properties of steels. For this, she needed a laboratory which Pierre Curie could provide her with. In the spring of 1894, they met and she started working in his lab. They got married in 1895.
Research and Discoveries in Radioactivity
In 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity. While studying the properties of X-rays and in his attempt to develop photographic plates, his experiment proved that uranium could emit radiation without an external energy source. This was radioactivity. However, the term was coined much later by Marie Curie. Based on Becquerel's discovery, the Curies chose to study uranium. Research led them to conclude that the uranium ore contains other radioactive elements. This would further lead to Marie Curie's discoveries of radium and polonium.

Using the Curie electrometer, she discovered that uranium rays give conductivity to the air surrounding them. She discovered that the activity of uranium compounds depends on the quantity of uranium present in them. That is, the intensity of radiation does not depend on the physical state of uranium. It also doesn't depend on whether it is combined with other chemical elements. The intensity of the rays depends only on the quantity of uranium atoms.

She discovered the radioactive nature of pitchblende and chalcocite, two minerals of uranium and proved that thorium was a radioactive element. She observed that these ores were more radioactive than pure uranium. She hypothesized the presence of one or more unknown elements in the ores that were highly radioactive.

Pierre Curie was fascinated by Marie's research and leaving his own research, joined forces with her. They worked together and processed tons of pitchblende ore to obtain just a fraction of the new elements.

In 1898, Marie Curie announced the discovery of an element, which she named polonium after her native country, Poland. The same year, on December 26, the Curies declared of having discovered radium.
Accolades
In 1903, Marie received a Doctor of Science degree from the University of Paris. Later that year, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel for their joint efforts in the research on radiation. The discoveries of polonium and radium were not mentioned, as some doubts remained regarding elements which were isolated in very small amounts.
Marie Curie in laboratory
In 1902, the Curies had isolated radioactive radium salts. Marie was able to isolate pure radium only in 1910, after subjecting the radium salt to differential crystallization. Unfortunately, she had lost her husband four years before this accomplishment of hers. For the discovery of elements like radium, polonium and their compounds, Marie received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911.
Work for a Social Cause
During World War I, Marie felt the need of radiological centers to help surgeons on the battlefield. She developed portable radiology units and helped with their installation at field hospitals. The portable X-ray machines developed by her, ensured that soldiers received immediate treatment. She served as a radiologist and operated these machines. In 1915, she made hollow needles containing radon that would be used in sterilizing infected tissue. More than 1 million soldiers could be treated because of her prompt assistance during war.

The Curies' inventions were worth a fortune. Patenting them would have brought them more fame and money. However they preferred to keep their discoveries open for unlimited use. Marie believed that patenting would be "contrary to the scientific spirit". Albert Einstein has rightly said, "Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the only one whom fame has not corrupted."
Death
The adverse effects of radiation were not known during the time Curies were carrying out the potentially risky research on radioactive elements. Marie Curie died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anemia. Over-exposure to radiation had affected her health. She was buried in Sceaux next to where Pierre was interred.
Curie's daughter Irène and Irène's husband Frédéric Joliot discovered artificial radioactivity at the Radium Institute Marie Curie had founded. They received the Nobel Prize for this discovery. Unfortunately, Marie Curie wasn't alive to witness this.
Much later, which was in 1995, the remains of both the Curies were transferred to the Pantheon, Paris in 1995, where many eminent figures of France are laid to rest.
Marie Curie's research in radioactivity led to many breakthroughs in chemistry and changed the way the world looked at science. The joint effort of the Curies led to many important advancements in scientific research. The discovery and study of radioactivity was instrumental in the development of techniques that can treat maladies like cancer. Marie Curie was an intelligent and courageous woman who devoted her life to science. Her work laid the foundation of a new field we now know as radiochemistry. Her greatness in the scientific community is undisputed and she is a source of inspiration for many.