Maria Sklodowska – Curie(November 7, 1867 – July 4, 1934)
was a Polish-French physicist and chemist. She is a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, and later becomes the first two-time Nobel laureate (the only woman) and the only Nobel laureate in two different fields of science – physics, and chemistry.
She is also the first woman to be invited to teach at the Sorbonne University in Paris.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, at that time under the rule of the Russian Empire, her childhood was sad, marked by the death of her sister (died of typhus), and after four years of her mother.
It has been noted that there is an amazing memory and ability for exhausting work, neglecting even food and sleep during learning. After graduating at the age of fifteen, she was completely exhausted and sent to a village to recover.
Because she was female, as well as because of Russian (anti-Polish) repression after the January 1863 Uprising, she was not allowed to enroll at any university, so she was forced to work as a governess for several years and visit the illegal so-called. “Flying University”.
Finally, with the financial help of her older sister Bronia, she moved to Paris. She attended a private female college, then studied physics and mathematics at “Sorbonne” and finished first in the generation, in the spring of 1893.
A year later, she earned a masters degree in mathematics, also on “Sorbonne”. Under the mentorship of Henri Becquerel, in 1903 she received her Ph.D. at the School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry in Paris, as the first woman – Doctor of Science in France.
She was introduced to “Sorbonne” and later married to Pierre Curie. Together, they studied radioactive materials, especially the uranium mineral, which had an unusual property to be more radioactive than the uranium that was obtained from it.
By 1898, they had already come up with a logical explanation: the mineral must have contained contaminants from an unknown radioactive substance, which was much more radioactive than uranium.
In a decomposed shed in Lomonos street, in Paris, just over 100 years ago, the superhuman struggle of Maria Sklodowska-Kiri and her husband Pierre began, with tons of uranium ore, called Pehblende.
The ore pointed out that in addition to the uranium, another radioactive element must be found. The quest began with Mary and Pierre Curie.
In a worker’s blouse, full of dust and stains from acids, in the middle of
smoke that shook her eyes and throat, with wrinkled hair, Mary worked in her small yard very hard work.
After several hours, the chemical substance was boiling in boiling water, with a spoon larger than it and added a new ore. This picture was repeated every day for almost four years!
After the hot Sun and in the cold winters, she fought from the pehblende to succeed in singling out an unknown substance, with an unusual force of radiation.
After 45 months of hard work, at the boundary of the living power, from two ounces of ore, Mary received 100 milligrams pure salt of the new chemical element – the radius. That element, which he found together with Pierre, was about 3.5 million times stronger than uranium!
Thus, on December 26, Mary Curie announced the existence of this new substance.
The news from this discovery shocked the world. In distrust, the scientists rushed to their home to reassure the power of the radius.
Upon the recommendation of Mary and Pierre, the scientists came late at night, because the small amount of radium salt, which was found in a glass bowl, shone in the dark like a small sun.
The following year, on December 10, 1903, the Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, the greatest recognition one scientist can get – Henri Becquerel on discovering the natural radioactivity of both Maria and Pierre Sklodowski-Curie, for the discovery of the radium.
After several years of continuous work, they refined several tons of the mineral, isolating, thus, radium chloride (on April 20, 1902), as well as two new chemical elements. The first was called polonium, in honor of Maria’s native land, and the other radium due to intense radioactivity.
Together with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel, she received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, “in recognition of the exceptional contribution to their joint research on the phenomenon of radioactivity discovered by prof. Henri Becquerel “.
Thus, she became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Eight years later, she received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911, “in recognition of her contribution to the advancement of chemistry by discovering the elements of radium and polonium, by isolating the radius, and by studying the properties and compounds of this important chemical element” .
Unusual, but deliberately, Mary Curie did not patent the process of isolating the radius in order for the scientific circles to be able to explore uninterruptedly.
Just one month after receiving the Nobel Prize, she was hospitalized for depression and kidney problems. Otherwise, in 1910, in honor of her husband who was beaten by a chariot four years earlier (on 19 April 1906 in Paris), the basic unit for measuring radioactivity was called “kiri”.
In 1921, triumphantly welcomed, she traveled across the United States in order to provide means for researching the radius.
In later years, she was deeply disappointed with the plethora of doctors and cosmetic manufacturers who used radioactive material without special precautions.
According to some sources, the cause of her death in 1934 (in the town of Sanselmo, in the south-east of France) was aplastic anemia (mild-blood) as a consequence of excessive irradiation during her work, at a time when the harmful effects of radiation are not known enough.
Namely, she often carried glass containers filled with radioactive isotopes, and she knew about the “beautiful blue-green light that gave the metals in darkness” in her pockets.
After her death, she was buried in the same cemetery as Pierre Curie, but in April 1995, in honor of the great achievements, the remains were transferred to the Pantheon in Paris, among the most celebrated figures of French history.
And again, Maria Curie is the first woman buried in the Pantheon, in recognition of her work.
Pierre and Marie Curie’s daughter, Irena Joliot-Curie, and groom Frederic Jolio-Ciri were also physicists who studied radioactivity and became Nobel Prize winners in chemistry in 1935.
The younger daughter, Eva, wrote and published her mother’s biography titled “Madame Curie”.
So far, this is the only case where three Nobel prizes were awarded to the same family. They will long be bright stars in the sky of science in the constellation that can get the name “radioactivity.”