Marie Curie: The Woman of Many Firsts

Marie Curie’s field of expertise was radioactivity. She was a  physicist and a chemist, her field of expertise was radioactivity and she was a pioneer in this area. She was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, and the first person to win 2 Nobel Prizes, she discovered radium, polonium and led to many other scientific discoveries. 

 Marie Curie was born on November 7, 1867; in Warsaw, Poland. She was the youngest of five children. Her parents were educators and supporters of equal education, meaning that they ensured both their daughters’ and sons’ educations, Maire’s dad also gave her scientific training, and built the foundation of her scientific knowledge and her interest for science.  At the age of 15, she completed her secondary education and graduated as the first in her class. She decided to continue her education life with a higher education. When she graduated, the University of Warsaw did not accept female students, thus Marie left the country and registered to the Sorbonne University in Paris. In the Sorbonne, she obtained Licenciateships in Physics and the Mathematical Sciences. Through her professor’s arrangement for research, Marie met the chemist Pierre Curie, who soon became her husband in the summer of 1895 .

1903 was a year of many firsts for Marie. She became the first woman in France to defend her doctoral thesis, and gained her Doctor of Science degree. Later that year, in November 1903, she together with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel, won the Nobel Prize for their contributions to the understanding of radiation phenomena, she recieved her first Nobel and became the first woman who won a Nobel Prize.

In 1906, Marie lost her husband Pierre to a tragic accident. After the death of Pierre, Marie was named as his successor to fulfill his position as the chair of physics at the Sorbonne University. With this position of professor of general physics in the faculty of sciences at the Sorbonne, Marie became the first woman who became a professor at the French University. She was also appointed Director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris.

In 1911, Marie was awarded a second Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements polonium, named after her hometown Poland, and radium. In honor of the 100-year anniversary of her Nobel award, 2011 was declared the “International Year of Chemistry.”

She retained her enthusiasm for science throughout her life and did much to establish a radioactivity laboratory in her native city Warsaw. She was a member of the Conseil du Physique Solvay from 1911 until her death and since 1922 she had been a member of the Committee of Intellectual Co-operation of the League of Nations. She passed away on 4 July 1934 in France, when she was 66. The cause of her death wasaplastic pernicious anaemia due to years of exposure to radiation.

Marie’s most famous work was the discovery of radium and polonium and she is known for the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize, however, besides these great achievements, she was the woman who inspired many other women to pursue their dreams and to continue their education lives, to fight for the careers they truly deserve. Marie Curie, the woman of many firsts, the woman who inspired many others.


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