Marie Curie: this was the life of the mother of modern physics

Marie Curie Mother Modern Physics

Daughter of a physics and mathematics teacher, and a piano teacher, Maria Salomea Sklodowska was born on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw, which, at that time, still belonged to the Tsarist Russian Empire. 

During his early years, although he did not come from a very wealthy family, he did have a great incentive and motivation for education and academic life. After the death of his mother and one of his sisters, family and financial difficulties never took away his desire to study. When she finished basic education, just because she was a woman, she was not allowed to go to higher education. However, that did not diminish his passion: he traveled to Paris to enter the University of the Sorbonne and got a vacancy to study physics and mathematics like his father. Meanwhile, she worked as a governess to support herself

Finally in 1893, Marie, who had already Frenchified her name, graduated in Physics with outstanding qualifications. A year later, she met her future husband, the also physicist and scientist Pierre Curie , from whom she took the surname and they had two daughters. Marie went further and went on to pursue a PhD. 

On November 7, 1867, Maria Solomea Sklodowska was born in Warsaw (Poland), who would go down in history as Marie Curie, the first professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris and winner of two Nobel Prizes, she was the first woman scientist to achieve such famed award.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But… what does it matter! You have to persevere and, above all, have confidence in yourself. You have to feel gifted to do something and you have to achieve that thing, whatever the cost.

The first of them, the Nobel Prize in Physics, she shared with her husband, Pierre, and H. Becquerel in 1903, and the second, in Chemistry, already alone in 1911.

From caste it comes to the greyhound, says the popular proverb, his father, Wladyslaw Sklodowsky, was a professor of physics and mathematics, and his mother, Bronislawa Boguska, a teacher. She was the youngest of five siblings and the death of one of her sisters from typhus and her mother from tuberculosis would mark her childhood when she was only 10 years old.

In a family with limited economic resources, Maria studied, combining with the work of governess, together with her sister Bronislawa in a Polish university that admitted women, known as “Flying University”.

Poland was occupied by the Russian Empire that imposed its language and customs. The name “steering wheel” was due to its itinerant nature to change its location and to be able to escape from Russian control.

Paris and the Sorbonne

At the age of 24, he was able to move to Paris (1891).

Two years later she graduated in Physics from the University of the French capital as the number 1 of her class. And in 1894 he did it in Mathematics.

On July 26, 1895, she married Pierre Curie, also a scientist.

His ambition for knowledge did not end with the achievement of the title, but he continued studying until he got his doctorate with his thesis: Research on radioactive substances.

“I’m less curious about people and more curious about ideas.”

Teaming up with her husband, in 1898 they announced the discovery of new elements: radium and polonium, both more radioactive than uranium, but they could not prove the discovery until four years later.

In 1903, the year in which he received his doctorate (obtaining an outstanding cum laude ), it was the year that he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on radioactivity.

It was the early years of the 20th century and society did not value the merits of a man and a woman in the same way. The recognitions to Pierre were greater and, in 1904, he was appointed professor at the University of Paris and in 1906 he became a member of the French Academy.

Tragedy and opportunity

That same year she suffered an accident with a carriage where she lost her life and this misfortune served Marie to occupy the chair of her late husband, becoming the first female professor at the Sorbonne. It was May 13, 1906.

He continued in research and in the following years discovered that radiation therapy could fight cancer. Thus, in 1911 he won his second Nobel Prize, this time alone and in Chemistry.

World War I

In 1914 the Great War broke out and Marie Curie contributed her scientific knowledge and actively collaborated in the cause by acquiring cars and X-ray machines and transforming them into “radiological ambulances”, thus saving lives and managing to become the director of the Service of Radiology of the French Red Cross.

In 1922 he entered the French National Academy of Medicine, obtaining numerous awards.

But it was precisely his line of research and his exposure to radiation that possibly caused his death on July 4, 1934. A year later, in 1935, it was his daughter, Irene Joliot Curie, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.