posted on October 12, 2006 |
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Maria Sklodowska (Marie Curie) was born November 7, 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. She would become famous for her research into radioactivity, and was the first woman to win a Nobel prize.
Maria grew up in a family that valued education. As a young woman she went to Paris to study mathematics, chemistry and physics. She began studying at the Sorbonne in 1891, and was the first woman to teach there. Maria adopted the French spelling of her name (Marie) and also met Pierre Curie, who taught physics at University of Paris.
Marie and Pierre soon married, and teamed up to conduct research on radioactive substances. They found that the uranium ore, or pitchblende, contained much more radioactivity than could be explained solely by the uranium content. The Curie's began a search for the source of the radioactivity and discovered two highly radioactive elements, "radium" and "polonium."
The Curies won the 1903 Nobel prize for physics for their discovery. They shared the award with another French physicist, Antoine Henri Bacquerel, who had discovered natural radioactivity. In 1906 Pierre, overworked and weakened by his prolonged exposure to radiation, died when he was run over by a horse-drawn coach.
Madame Curie continued her work on radioactive elements and won the 1911 Nobel prize for chemistry for isolating radium and studying its chemical properties. In 1914 she helped found the Radium Institute in Paris, and was the Institute's first director. When the first world war broke out, Madame Curie thought X-rays would help to locate bullets and facilitate surgery. It was also important not to move the wounded, so she invented X-ray vans and trained 150 female attendants.
In 1934, at the age of 67 Madame Curie died of leukemia, thought to have been brought on by exposure to the high levels of radiation involved in her research. After her death the Radium Institute was rename the Curie Institute in her honor.