Marie Curie is a famous name in science, even if most don’t fully understand her contributions to modern knowledge. But although her name may not have the same widespread acknowledgement as Galileo or Einstein, her contributions were still very significant. We will explore her early origins, her major discoveries, and the legacy of her name.
She was born Marie Sklodowska in Poland in 1867 and later attained French citizenship. It was in France that she met her soon to be husband Pierre Curie, a fellow scientist, and the two were married in 1895. And it was also in France that she started thinking of ideas for a thesis that would lead to her great discoveries.
Her first great discover was that rays were emitted by thorium which were similar to the ones that had recently been discovered emitting from uranium. However, unbeknownst to Marie another scientist published this result two months earlier in Berlin. But her bigger discovery was that there was something inside that emitted these rays even more than uranium.
After this discovery her husband began working with her in this pursuit, and it was through this joint effort that polonium and radium were discovered. She and her husband received the Nobel Prize for their discoveries in 1903, but this glory was short lived for Pierre as he died in an accident three years later. Marie continued her work and received a second Nobel Prize in 1911. Her work was critical in the eventual understanding of radiation and radioactive elements.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of understanding of radioactivity her and her husband had been engaging in very unsafe practices in the course of their studies, and this would ultimately lead to her demise. Marie Curie died in 1934 of an illness she had acquired by her exposure to radiation during the time she was conducting research. But her name lives on in the form of the Curie. A curie is a unit of Radioactivity equal to 3.7 * 10^10 decays per second, and a curie is actually a very significant amount of radioactivity, as the micro-curie is more commonly used.
Marie Curie was a very significant figure in science. Besides being one of the women pioneers in an area that was very heavily male dominated at the time, she made highly significant discoveries that greatly expanded the understanding of the makeup of matter. Ultimately, she unknowingly gave her life for scientific discovery. Her sacrifice is something to be remembered.