The Marie Effect

Maria Salomea Sktodowska was born on 7 November 1867 in Warsaw , Poland. She was the 5th child born to father Vladislav and Mother Bronislava sklodowska , who were both teachers. Because of bad investments, the family lost its savings and had to move to a private school where her mother taught.

Maria started her schooling in 1874, and she was the youngest and the smartest in her class. During that time, Warsaw was under Russian rule which banned polish dictums. Russian government forbade any polish women to attend university of Warsaw. So Marie and her older sister Bronya ,would pool their finances so that first her older sister ( Bronya ) could complete her education, and then Marie could attend University of Paris. Manya ( as Maria was also called) spent 6 years as governess and taught peasant children how to read and write.

She also attended secret meetings of “Floating University ” where they read scientific studies. By 1891,she had collected enough money to continue her studies in Paris. She moved there and lived with her sister and her husband and changed her name to Marie. She attended the Sorbonne University and then later moved to the student area , a tiny attic sized housing. In 1893,she earned her master’s degree in Physics, and then studied Mathematics on a scholarship.During this, she also got a job to study magnetism properties of various types of steel for French company.

She later met Pierre Curie and they got married in 1895 , and gave birth to daughter Irene the following year.

Later she decided to make French physicist Henri Becquerel and his discovery of mysterious Uranium rays in 1896 as her topic of physics doctorate. She began studying Uranium type rays radiated from other elements and found that Thorium also gave out such rays. Most of Uranium type rays given off by rocks called pitchblende- gave more radiation than she expected.

She announced in July,1898 that she found a new element and named it POLONIUM , after Poland and also invented the word ‘ radioactive ‘ , and later she also founded Radium.

To prove that she had indeed found those new elements, she had to produce pure radium. And finally on 21 july 1902 she reported the weight of 1 radium atom. In 1903, she became the first woman in Europe to receive doctorate in science. Radium began to be used for treating cancer cells, and the new treatment began to be called ‘ Curie treatment’. Marie and Pierre were awarded the Humphry Davy medal ; England’s highest award in chemistry.

The same year , she and her husband ,along with Henri Becquerel , were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics .In 1906, Pierre died by falling off horse drawn wagon.

In 1911, Marie won Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work in radioactivity.

She died in 1934 of aplastic anaemia due to prolonged exposure to radiation .

Later, in 1935,Irene and her husband Fredrick, were awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry .

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