Today we are celebrating the birthday of one of the greatest women in history – Mme Marie Sklodowska Curie, the Polish-French physicist and chemist who shook the scientific world with her achievements in the beginning of the 20th century.
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”
Marie Curie is also remembered as a great feminist who stood up for her rights, and ahead of her time challenged the status quo being the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in physics in 1903 together with her husband, Pierre Curie. She was also the first person to be honoured with two Nobel Prizes, which she received again in 1911 for her exceptional work in chemistry.
Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland, on 7 November 1867. Coming from a family of highly respected teachers of mathematics and physics, already at school Marie had shown great enthusiasm and talent for science. However, she had to endure considerable difficulties and prejudice in the course of her studies and scientific work.
It was in Paris, where Marie, then a student at the Sorbonne, met her husband – Pierre Curie. Together they created a partnership that would allow her to develop her theories about radioactivity, and lead to the discovery of two new elements, polonium and radium.
Even after Marie Curie had gained international recognition, she was still refused a place at the French Academy of Science in 1911, because she was a woman.
She died in 1934 from complications after continuous exposure to radiation. In 1995, Marie Curie’s body was transferred to the Paris Pantheon. She became the first woman to be entombed there due to her accomplishments in life.
Due to contamination, all of her documents and papers are still sealed in radiation-proof boxes. You can access some of them in our digital archives.