Welcome to our new entry! This time we would like to commemorate the 150th birthday anniversary of Marie Sklodowska Curie, an extremely accomplished scientist under who’s name we received the funding that is financing our research.
She lived an extraordinary life and her legacy continues to inspire and serve as a model to many scientists all over the world. We invite you to join us in our history throwback on Marie Curie’s life and the visits of two of the FOIE GRAS ESRs to the places where she lived, Warsaw and Paris.
EARLY STAGE CAREER
Maria Sklodowska (her name before going to Paris and getting married) was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867. She was a top student in her secondary school, but during that time in Poland higher education for woman was illegal, and so Maria could not attend the university there. But of course that didn’t stop this curious young woman; she started to attend what was known as the Flying University, a secret organization that began in 1882 in Warsaw. Polish professors, philosophers and historians led seminars and lectures for students who were cut out by the government-controlled education system of the time.
Meanwhile, for about five years, Maria worked as a tutor and a governess to earn money in order to relocate abroad and to take an official degree. It is not surprising that she used her spare time to study and read about physics, chemistry and math. In 1891 Maria finally went to Paris and enrolled at the Sorbonne. She completed her master’s degree in physics in 1893 and earned another degree in mathematics the following year. It was during that time that she changed her name to Marie to sound more French and met her future husband, a young french physician named Pierre Curie.
Marie worked on uranium rays, and theorized that they would come from the element’s atomic structure. Later, she named the phenomena as “radioactivity”. In 1903, Marie was the first woman in Europe to earn a Doctor of Science degree in physics. Together with her husband and Henri Becquerel, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to the understanding of atomic structure. In 1911, after the tragic death of Pierre Curie, Marie won her second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry, for her discovery of radium and polonium, becoming the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win the award twice.
She took her husband place as Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences at Sorbonne, becoming the institution’s first female professor. She was also appointed Director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris, founded in 1914. That same year, due to the start of World War I, Curie develop portable X-ray machines to be used in the battle field as medical vehicles, frequently called as “Little Curies”.
The famed scientist died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anemia, believed to be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation.
LEGAGY AND INSPIRATION
Inspired by the scientific career and the double Nobel Prize won by Marie Curie, the Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions were created as a set of mobility research fellowships to promote career development of researchers at all career stages.
Eighty-three years after her death, Marie Curie continues to be remembered by her scientific merits, especially in her two cities, Warsaw and Paris:
In Warsaw, where she was born, personal life and work of this inspiring woman can be visited at the Maria Sklodowska-Curie Museum. The museum’s building is also the birth place of Marie Curie. The museum has collections of letters, photos, personal items and a collection of laboratory instruments. The visitor can also see a recreation of Curie’s laboratory room. The museum is located in one of the main streets near the Old Town of the city (16 Freta Street) For more information, go to http://en.muzeum-msc.pl/.
Really close to the museum location, a statue of Marie Curie looking over the Vistula river (one of her favourite spots in the city) can be also found. Numerous locations related with her life and family can still be visited. Some buildings with her name throughout the city honour the work of Marie Curie and keep her memory alive.
The Paris Marie Curie Museum was founded on 1934, after Curie’s death, on the ground floor of the former Institute Radium, more specifically, in the rooms that served as Curie’s laboratory. In fact, it was in these premises that in 1934 Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie (Marie Curie’s son-in-law and daughter) discovered artificial radioactivity, discovery that would grant them the 1935 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Since 1959 the museum has one major prompter, the Association Curie and Joliot-Curie. This organization has as main goals to advertise the life and work of Pierre and Marie Curie, Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie, as well as to contribute to the preservation and enhancement of their writings, works and any document or object concerning them.
Nowadays, the museum displays several historical exhibitions, both scientific and personal. Among the several tour options it is possible to visit Marie Curie’s office and chemistry laboratory (decontaminated in 1981) as well as several displays of scientific instruments used until the end of the 1930s, particularly those that enabled the production of the world’s first artificial radio-elements. In a more sentimental context, one can also have first-hand access on archives, photographs and documentation about the family of the Five Nobel Prizes.
Overall, a look at Marie’s trajectory shows an incredible and authentic drive for knowledge and an insatiable passion for science, which led her to overcome the hardships of her time and leave a mark in human history. She lived a life full of firsts, especially as a woman in science and is a clear referent for all the FOIE GRAS ESRs.
We end this post with one of her famous quotes:
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.”
Marie Sklodowska Curie
See you next time!
Life History of Marie Curie:
- Gabriella Sistilli (ESR-5), pursuing her PhD at the CAS in Prague, Czech Republic
- Bárbara Patrício (ESR-6), pursuing her PhD at CNR in Pisa, Italy
Legacy and inspiration:
- Inês Simões (ESR-1), pursuing her PhD at the NENCKI Institute in Warsaw, Poland
- Inês Mateus (ESR-3), pursuing her PhD at the Sorbonne in Paris, France