MARIE CURIE (1867-1934)

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Marie Curie was a Polish physicist andchemist, working mainly in France, who is famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. She was also the first female professor at the University of Paris (La Sorbonne), and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in Paris’ Panthéon.

She was born in Warsaw, in the Congress Kingdom of Poland, then part of the Russian Empire. She studied at Warsaw’s clandestine Floating University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her older sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. She shared her 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre Curie and with physicist Henri Becquerel. She was the sole winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Her achievements included a theory of radioactivity (a term that the Curies coined), techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two elements,polonium and radium. Under her direction, the world’s first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms, using radioactive isotopes. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw, which remain major centres of medical research today. During World War I, she established the first military field radiological centres.

While a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska Curie (she used both surnames) never lost her sense of Polish identity. She taught her daughters the Polish languageand took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element that she discovered – polonium, which she first isolated in 1898 – after her native country.

Curie died in 1934 at the sanatorium of Sancellemoz (Haute-Savoie), France, due to aplastic anemia brought on by her years of exposure to radiation.

Documentary by freshman Paulina Campbell – won 1st place in the 2009 National History Day District contest (Senior Division) held at UNC-Charlotte.

For a long biography video of Marie Curie.

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