Marie Curie is a name we all know of. She was the first ever woman to receive a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win it twice. Her contributions on the field of radioactivity have helped many, in this Behind the Brains I will be telling you about Marie Curie.
Maria Sklodowska was porn in Warsaw, on the seventh of November 1867 in the Russian partition of Poland. She was the youngest daughter of Bronislawa and Wladyslaw Sklodowski. On both sides of the family (maternal and paternal) their involvements in the Polish national uprisings made the family lose all their land, this meant that whilst growing up they would have a difficult life. Maria’s father and his father were both involved in teaching, and had taught a number of respectable figures of Poland. Maria decided to pursue Mathematics and Physics, both happening to be subjects her father taught. Her father was fired for his for-polish sentiments by his Russian supervisors, so this forced him to take jobs which payed lower, which only got worse as the family had made a bad investment. They had to lodge boys in their house to meet ends meet. Maria’s mother operated a Warsaw boarding school for girls, resigning when Maria was born. Sadly her Mother dies when Maria was ten in May of 1879, the cause was tuberculosis, the sad thing being that less than three years prior to her mothers death her oldest sibling, Zofia had died of typhus.
When Maria was ten years old she began attending the boarding school of J.Sikorska, going on to attend a school for girls. From this school she graduated on the 12th of June 1883 with a gold merit. After a collapse she spent the following year with relatives of her father in the countryside, and in the next year she spent time in the city with her Father. Whilst she was in Warsaw she did some tutoring. Maria was not allowed to enroll in an institution of higher education, all because she was her woman. Her sister and Maria joined the Flying University, a Polish institution of higher education which accepted women. Maria made an agreement with her sister, citing that she would give her financial assistance in her studies in Paris if she did the same for her in two years. To make the money for this, Maria took a position as a tutor in Warsaw, then in Szczuki, with relatives of her father, the Zorawski family. While working for the Zorawskis she fell in love with their son, Kazimmierz Zorawski, a future mathematician. His parents disagreed with the idea of marrying her, and so he did not. Zorawski continued to go on and earn a doctorate, becoming a professor at Krakow university. As an old man Zorawski would contemplate before the statue of Maria Sklodowska which was erected in front of the Radium Institute. In the early months of 1890, her sister asked Maria, who recently married a physician and social activitist, to come join them in Paris. Maria kindly declined as she did not have enough money to afford the university tuition but she was helped by her father and in a year and a half she secured the money to come join them in Paris.
In late 1981 she left Poland for France, In France Maria was referred to as Marie, she briefly stayed with her sister and her sisters husband but moved into an attic closer to the university, where she studied physics, chemistry and mathematics. She was living on scarce resources, sometimes fainting from hunger. Marie had to tutor in the evenings to make ends meet, and in 1983 she was awarded a degree in physics and began working in the industrial lab of Gabriel Lippmann, a professor. She continued studying at the University of Paris and was able to earn a second degree in 1894 with the help of a fellowship. Marie began off her scientific career in Paris in which she looked at the magnetic properties of various steels, payed for by the Society of Encouragement of National Industry (sfteoni for short). In that same year Pierre Curie entered her life, their same interest in natural sciences made them a perfect match. Pierre curie was an instructor at the School of Physics and Chemistry. They met each other by chance, as a professor was trying to find Marie a larger laboratory, which he thought Pierre had, and although he did not, he managed to find a space for her to work.
Pierre Curie and Maria Sklodowska were getting closer and closer with each other as they both showed interests in natural science, and soon enough they had developed feelings for each other. Pierre mustered up the guts to proposed to Maria, and she did not accept as she was planning to return to Poland. Pierre said that he would go with her to live in Paris, even though this meant that he would not be able to teach sciences but rather French. While Marie went for summer break to Warsaw to visit family, she though she would be able to work in Krakow University, but once again she was denied because of her gender. Pierre sent a letter persuading Marie to return to Paris to get a Ph.D. , Pierre Curie was not going to stop, and a contemporary writer even said that Marie was Pierre’s biggest find. On 26 July 1985 they got married in Seine, without any religious service, and instead of wearing a bridal gown Marie wore a dark blue outfit, serving as a laboratory outfit for many years. The two had many things in common and they were the perfect couple.
Marie Died on the 4th of July, 1934 due to Aplastic Anemia, believed to be from her long term exposure to radiation. At that time people did not the the damage radiation could do, so her laboratory was very dangerous and so were here books. She made a great contribution to the field and sadly had to die for it too.