Madame Curie was born in 1868 as Marie Sklodowska in Warsaw Poland, the fifth child of teachers. Marie stayed in Poland until she was 24 at which time she went to study in Paris. She became a physicist and chemist and eventually became the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes, one in Physics, and one in Chemistry. Curie was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris.
Maria made an agreement with her sister Bronislawa, that she would give her financial assistance during Bronislawa’s medical studies in Paris. Marie in turn expected similar assistance two years later, when it would be her turn to study. In order to be able to afford this, Marie took a position as governess. While working in a governess position, Marie met and fell in love with a man she was intent on marrying. It was not to be and a few years later, she met Pierre Curie, who was to become her husband.
While in Paris, Marie studied and conducted scientific works. She spent her time studying during the day and tutoring in the evening. That same year, in 1894 she met her future husband. It was their common interest in magnetism that brought them together. Marie Curie received degrees in Physics and Mathematics and later founded the Curie Institutes in both Paris and Warsaw Poland. Her family also received prestigious Nobel Prizes. Her husband, Pierre Curie, her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie and her son-in-law Frederic Joliot-Curie all received the Nobel prize for their works.
Amongst Madame Curie’s accomplishments was the discovery of the elements Radium and Polonium. Having never forgotten her Polish roots, Marie named her one discovered element, Polonium after Poland, the country of her birth. She also was responsible for the discovery of radioactive isotopes. Curie also studied the uranium rays using an electrometer, an instrument that she, Pierre and Pierre’s brother had invented. The Curie’s undertook the daunting task of separating radium salt by crystallization.
In 1903 after being awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, Marie and Pierre Curie became very famous. The Sorbonne gave Pierre a professorship and permitted him to establish his own laboratory, in which Marie Curie became director of research for.
During World War 1, Marie Curie worked on mobile radiography units, used to treat injured soldiers. Through all of their work and research, little did the Curie’s know what toll their exposure to radioactivity did to their lives. Marie Curie died in 1934 of aplastic anemia, an illness which was related to her exposure to radiation. Her husband Pierre died in 1906 in an accident.