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



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.


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.


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.


Goes to study at the University of Paris.


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


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


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.


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.


She gives birth to her first daughter, Irene.


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


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


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.


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


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.


Publishes her treatise on radioactivity.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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

Contact Information

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