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First Woman to Win the Nobel Prize



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In 1903 just two years after their establishment, The Nobel Foundation awarded Marie Curie with the Nobel Prize in Physics for her extrordinary discoveries on the subject of radiation that had been discovered by Henri Becquerel. Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize. Eight years later Curie was given the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements radium and polonium. That award made her the first and still to this day only person to recieve two Nobel Prizes in different fields.

Maria Skoldwska was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867. From the get go Marie showed an amazing memory and willingness to work hard. She graduated from a Russian school at the top of her class at age 16. Because she was female, Marie was denied admission to a regular university in Russia, but in 1891 Maria was able to join her sister at the University of Paris, where in 1909 she would become the first female professor. At the univeristy she met and married Pierre Curie, then an instructor in the Physics and Chemistry departments.

On April 19, 1906, Pierre was killed in a street accident as he was leaving a publisher's office. He had gone there to review proofs of an article, and found the business closed due to a strike. Heading back across the street in heavy rain, he was struck by a horse-drawn vehicle and fell under its wheels, fracturing his skull. While it has been speculated that he may previously have been weakened by prolonged radiation exposure, it has not been proven that this was the cause of the accident. Marie was devastated by her husband's death. She then spent years touring the United Staes to raise funds for radium research.

She then died in 1934 from Aplastic Anemia, most likely from the large amounts of radiation she was exposed to. Her work had been carried out with no safety measures at all and carried radioactive material around all the time.

She was interred at the cemetery in Sceaux, where Pierre lay, but sixty years later, in 1995, in honor of their work, the remains of both were transferred to the Panthon in Paris.
Pierre and Marie studied radioactive materieals, especially pitchblende. By 1898 they together published an article announcing the existance of Polonium, in honor of Poland. The Curies also announced the existance of Radium.

The Curies' elder daughter, Irne Joliot-Curie, won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935 for discovering that aluminium could be radioactive and emit neutrons when bombarded with alpha rays. The younger daughter, ve Curie, wrote the biography, Madame Curie, after her mother's death.

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