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Project: The Life of Marie Curie Pop-Up Biography Book:
-Early Life & Education
Marie Curie (Maria Sklodowska) was born in Warsaw (modern day Poland) on November 7, 1867. She was the youngest of 5 children. Curie's parents were both teachers. At 10 years old, she lost her mother to tuberculosis. Curie took after her father in becoming a math and physics teacher. Marie Curie was the top student in her secondary school, however, she could not attend Warsaw University due to financial reasons. Instead, she continued her studies at Warsaw's floating university, which was an informal underground class. Curie worked as a personal tutor and studied physics, chemistry, and math in her spare time. In 1891, Curie made her way to Paris and enrolled at Sorbonne. Although she still had financial troubles, Marie completed her Master's in Physics and Math. On July 26, 1895, Curie married French physicist Pierre Curie, and in 1897, they welcomed their first daughter, Irine.
Marie Curie discovered radioactivity, and together with her husband Pierre, the radioactive elements polonium and radium while working with the mineral pitchblende.
Curie conducted her own experiments on uranium rays and discovered that they remained constant, no matter the condition or form of the uranium because of her fascination with Henri Becquerel's work discovering that uranium casts off weaker rays than x-rays. The ray's she theorized, came from the element's atomic structure. This revolutionary idea created the field of atomic physics. Curie coined the word "radioactivity" to describe the phenomena.
Following her discovery of radioactivity, she began researching with her husband Pierre. Working with the mineral pitchblende, the pair discovered a new radioactive element in 1898. They named the element polonium, after Marie's native country of Poland. They also detected the presence of another radioactive material and called it radium. In 1902, the Curies announced that they produced a decigram of pure radium, demonstrating its existence as a unique chemical element.
Marie Curie, along with her husband Pierre and physicist Henri Becquerel, won the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics for their extraordinary research with radioactivity. The money from their Nobel Prizes made life easier for Marie and Pierre, In 1904, Marie and Pierre welcomed their second daughter, Ève. Pierre was killed by a horse drawn carriage in 1906. Marie took over her husband's position as the Chair of Physics at the Sorbonne and became the first woman professor. After Pierre's death, a relationship with her husband's former student, Paul Langevin, had grown. Curie later received her second Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. After her studies, Marie put her knowledge to use during World War I with the help of her daughter Irine. They set up portable x-ray machines near battle lines to allow x-rays to be taken on wounded soldiers. By the end of the war, over 1,000 soldiers had been treated in Marie's medical units. After the war, Curie founded the Radium Institute to expand her medical research. Curie realized that she could treat patients with tumors with radioactive elements. However, her institute could only afford one gram of radium at $120,000/gram. Due to the exposure to radioactivity during the course of her career, Marie Curie died on July 4, 1934 due to leukemia.
December 10, 2017 will make the 114th anniversary of Marie Curie's Nobel Prize in Physics. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only person, male or female, to win two Nobel Prizes. Marie Curie was a pioneer for women in the field of math and science, as she was the first woman to make major achievements in her field. Despite being called the "First Lady" due to her husband's political involvement, she truly became the "First Lady of Science." Her intelligence was often doubted because she lived in a time where society believed that women were intellectually inferior. She was the first scientist to realize that radioactivity is an intrinsic property of matter only changing the nucleus. Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize for this research. She was also the first woman to receive her Doctorate of Science in Europe. Her second Nobel Prize was awarded to her in Chemistry. When she died in 1934, she was the first woman to be laid to rest under the Panthéon in Paris as recognition for her achievements. Finally, Marie became the first Nobel Prize winner to have a daughter that also won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She continues to influence young women around the world to venture into the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields of education.
Polonium and Radium Atomic Structure Models