As we approach the life of Marie Curie, we realize that she was the first and only one in an incredible series of events. A pioneer in every rule who rose as the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and to be a professor at the University of Paris. She was also the first woman to be buried on her own merits at The Pantheon in Paris and the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in different scientific disciplines.
Who said that women cannot devote themselves to science?
The legacy of Marie Curie is impressive and her name resonates in an endless list of men dedicated to science. Marie Curie is probably one of the best known scientists in the world.
His research in the field of radioactivity opened the way to an infinity of later studies. In this article we will try, as far as possible, to approach one of the most important figures in the scientific panorama of the 20th century.
The beginnings of a life of determination
Maria Sklodowska, who was her birth name, was born in Poland and was the youngest of five children. Both his father and his mother were dedicated to teaching; Maria, from an early age, followed in her father’s footsteps and showed great interest in mathematics and physics.
Faced with the impossibility of enrolling in the University of Warsaw, at that time exclusively for men, he undertook several occasional jobs. Mostly, Marie worked as a governess to earn extra money that would help in the education of her sister. Meanwhile, in her free time, she continued to educate herself, even began her practical scientific training in the chemistry lab.
In 1891, she moved to France and enrolled at the Sorbonne University. It was there that she began to be known as Marie. With little financial help, she was obliged to give private lessons in the afternoon to earn some money and survive.
In 1894, she visited Pierre Curie at the School of Physics and Chemistry of the University of Paris. In 1895, Pierre and Marie were married, in this way, an extraordinary association was created in scientific work.
Marie Curie: France and first achievements
Marie Curie is the most famous physicist and chemist in history. Already in mid-1897, Curie’s achievements included: two university degrees, a scholarship and a published article dealing with the magnetization of tempered steel. Curie had already achieved a certain prestige in the scientific and academic field when Irène, her first daughter, was born. From this moment, Marie Curie focused her attention on the mysterious uranium radiation described by Antoine Henri Becquerel (1852-1908).
In 1904, his second daughter, Eve, was born. Thanks to his relentless dedication and hard work he managed to discover and isolate – in a state of purity – two elements: polonium and radium. He developed techniques that allowed to isolate radioactive isotopes and that could have made it millionaire, but he chose to share his knowledge for the good of humanity.
The importance of his discoveries was immense, breaking in his historical moment the orthodox notion that the scientists had on matter and energy. She left us a legacy soaked with a totally new line of thought.
The eminent scientist realized that radiation was an atomic property and, therefore, had to be present in other elements. Thus, Curie was responsible not only to theorize the concept of radioactivity, but also to coin the term radioactivity.
From 1898 to 1902, she and her husband published about 32 scientific articles. These articles gave a detailed account of his work on radioactivity. In one of these scientific papers, they reported that tumor-forming cells were destroyed faster than healthy cells when exposed to radioactivity.
Beyond the laboratory
In addition to her work in the field of science, Marie Curie contributed greatly during the First World War. He was responsible for the establishment of the first radiological centers in military camps. Curie’s research was crucial in the development of radiographs of patients who needed surgery.
During the First World War, Marie Curie helped equip the ambulances with X-ray equipment that she joined the front lines of battle. The International Red Cross appointed her at the head of her radiology service. In this position, he was in charge of conducting training courses for doctors in the application of these new techniques. It is estimated that more than one million wounded soldiers were treated with their X-ray units.
Scientific merit in inequality of conditions
Despite her success, Marie continued to face strong opposition from male scientists in France and never received significant economic benefits for her work. Inequality was the order of the day and there was little point in being one of the brightest scientists of the moment.
On the rainy afternoon of April 19, 1906, Pierre Curie was hit by a carriage and died instantly; Two weeks later, the widow assumed the Chair of Physics at the Sorbonne, taking the position of her late husband.
Honors began to arrive from scientific societies around the world. But Curie had been left alone with two small children and with the gigantic task of leadership in the investigation of radioactivity. In 1908, she edited the complete works of her husband and, in 1910, published her massive Traité de radioactivité.
The second Curie Nobel Prize would not be long in coming, although, on this occasion, would be awarded in the field of chemistry. Even so, Curie did not get the approval of the Academy of Sciences that, once again, denied her membership.
At the end of the 1920s, his health began to deteriorate and, finally, Marie Curie died on July 4, 1934 as a result of leukemia. This disease was caused by exposure to high-energy radiation from his research.
She was buried next to Pierre Curie in Sceaux, until, some six decades later, her remains were transferred to the Pantheon in Paris. The oldest daughter of the Curies, Irène, followed in the footsteps of her mother dedicating her life to science and eventually winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.