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Madame Curie received the Nobel Prize for Physics and Chemistry

Posted in Historical articles, History, Medicine, Science on Monday, 29 October 2012

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This edited article about originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 774 published on 13th November 1975.

Madame Curie, picture, image, illustration

Madame Curie by Angus McBride

Marie Curie, the first woman scientist to win a Nobel Prize, was born on 7th November 1867. Marie and her husband are most famous as the joint discoverers of the element, radium.

The daughter of a schoolmaster, Marie was born in Warsaw. She was pretty and clever, but Poland at that time was under the harsh rule of the Russian Tsars and there was little opportunity of higher education for Polish girls, however talented.

Marie was fascinated by science and longed to study it. Eventually, by taking posts as a governess with wealthy families, she was able to help her elder sister, Bronya, to go to Paris to study medicine. She herself followed as soon as she had saved sufficient money.

While studying mathematics and physics at the Sorbonne (the University of Paris), Marie met a French scientist, Pierre Curie, whom she married.

The story of their partnership is well known – how, working together, they probed the secrets of the radio-activity of metals, and discovered radium, which could be used to cure, for the first time in history, certain malignant types of the disease called cancer.

For their discoveries, the Curies were awarded, in 1903, the Nobel Prize for Physics, sharing it with another French scientist, Henri Bacquerel. Unhappily, Pierre Curie was killed in a street accident in Paris in 1906, but Marie Curie continued her work as a scientist, and, in 1911, became the first person to receive a second of these great Swedish honours when she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

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