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Physicist and Chemist

(1867 - 1934)

Polish born physicist Marie Curie and her French husband, Pierre, are famous for their work on radioactivity. They were inspired by the work of the French physicist Henri Becquerel (1852 - 1908). Marie Curie was the fisrt to use the term "radioactive" for substances that have considerable electromagnetic activity.

She also isolated two new radioactive elements: polonium and radium. After Pierre's death, she took over his job as professor of Physics at the University of Paris - she was the first woman to teach there. She continued her research, looking for medical uses for radioactivity. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 and for Chemistry in 1911.

Life Story

 

1867

On 7th November Manya Sklodowska - later became as famous as Marie Curie - is born in Warsaw, Poland. Her father is a teacher of Mathematics and Physics; she is the fifth and youngest child.

1883

Wins a gold medal for her studies at the Russian School in Warsaw. Her father loses his savings through bad investment, so Sklodowska has to get a job at age 16. She works as a teacher and is involved in clandestine work for the "free university" - reading in Polish to women workers.

1884

Takes a job as a governess to finance her sister, Bronia, through her medical studies in Paris, France; on the understanding that her sister will return the favour.

1891

Goes to study at the University of Paris.

1893

Gains her Master's degree in Physical Science, coming top in the exam.

1894

At age 27, gains her second Master's degree, in Mathematics.

1895

On 25th July  she marries the French chemist, Pierre Curie (1859 - 1906). She continues to study under the Luxembourg physicist, Gabriel Lippmann (1845 -1921), inventor of a process of colour photography.

1896

Works on her doctorate, following up the work of French physicist Henri Becquerel, and calls the radiation he has observed "radioactivity." She takes over a disused storeroom at the Ecole de Physique et Chimie Industrielle in Paris. She measures the power of radiation from uranium compounds and extends her investigation to other elements, including thorium.

1897

She gives birth to her first daughter, Irene.

1898

After extensive work with her husband, they isolate two radioactive elements polonium (named for Poland) and radium.

1900

Is appointed Lecturer in Physics at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Servres, France.

1903

She and her husband, with Becquerel, are awarded the Davy Medal of the Royal Society, England, and the Nobel Prize for Physics, for the discovery of radioactivity. She is 35.

1904

She gives birth to her second daughter, Eve. Marie Curie becomes chief assistant in her husband's laboratory at the University of Paris.

1905

On 19th April her husband dies after being run over by a horse and cart in Paris. She takes her husband's job as professor. She is the first woman to teach at the University of Paris.

1910

Publishes her treatise on radioactivity.

1911

At age 43, is awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the isolation of radium.

1914

She moves to new laboratories and with her daughter Irene (1897 -1956), starts work on developing the use of X-rays.

1918

Both women move to the new Institute du Radium and continue their study of radioactive substances and their medical applications. Marie Curie travels to the United States and Europe.

1926

Back in Paris, Irene Curie marries the French physicist, Frederic Joliot (1900 -58), who is also working at the Institute.

1930

Irene and Frederic Joliot complete important experiments, using stores of radium isolated by Marie Curie. Inauguration of the Radium Institute in Warsaw; Marie's sister, Bronia becomes a director.

1934

The Joliot-Curies discover artificial radioactivity. On 4th July  Marie Curie dies of leukemia at Sallanches, France, aged 66.

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