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* 7. 11. 1867, Warsaw, Poland
† 4. 7. 1934, Sancellemoz, France

physicist, chemist, radiologist

She was born to a family of Warsaw intellectuals. Her father, Władysław, was a gymnasium professor of mathematics and physics. He translated scientific publications and poetry. Her mother, Bronisława (born Boguska), was the principal of a college for girls. Four children were born to the Skłodowski family. The oldest daughter, Bronisława, completed a study of medicine at the University of Paris and married a doctor, Kazimierz Dłuski, who founded the first sanatorium in Zakopane (Polish Tatra).
In 1883, Marie Skłodowska finished her secondary education at the 3rd gymnasium for girls in Warsaw. Afterwards, she spent a year working as a teacher at the Żórawski family, which lived outside of town, and, after her return to Warsaw, secretly began studying at the university. In order to help her sister, who studied in Paris, she also worked as a tutor.
She first became acquainted with research work in the laboratory of the Museum of Industry and Agriculture in Warsaw, where she worked under the supervision of her cousin, Józef Jerzy Boguski between 1890-91. In 1891, she left for Paris, where, thanks to her sister's financial support, she completed a licenciate with honours in the field of physics at the Paris Sorbonne in 1893, and a year later a licenciate in mathematics.
Her first scientific treatise was ordered by Société d`Encouragement pour l`Industrie Nationale, and discussed the research into the properties of metals, particularly of hardened steel.
In 1895, she married Pierre Curie, co-discoverer of the piezoelectric effect. Further scientific research was conducted by S.-C. together with her husband, until his tragic death in 1906.
In 1896, A. H. Becquerel discovered radiation emitted by uranium salt.
S.-C. began researching this radiation by using the piezometric method, developed by Jakob and Pierre Curie, to measure the air conduit.
She concluded that the process of spontaneous radiation »... presents the atomic property of uranium that is independent of the physical properties of the chemical structure of its salt«, and that »... substances which contain uranium emit that much more radiation the greater the quantity of uranium they contain ...«.
During her research, she also noticed that uranium minerals (uranium pitchblende) emit far more radiation than uranium itself. In her letter to the Paris Academy of Sciences, she pointed out the existence of a highly radioactive element, which she named polonium (July 1898). She discovered the existence of another radioactive element together with G. Bémont in December 1898. They named the new element uranium. The term radioactivity was first introduced precisely by S.-C.
Later on, Marie and Pierre Curie also conducted research on how to isolate the discovered radioactive elements and their compounds in pure form.
This was carried out with the chemical treatment of a few ton of waste, which had been produced by the Polish uranium salt factory. The research conducted by S.-C. was carried out under difficult conditions, in huts that had been turned into a laboratory, located underneath the School of Chemistry and Physics in Paris.
S.-C. showed great expertise in conducting experiments, particularly in the complicated procedures of extraction. In 1902, she succeeded in obtaining 0.1 g of radium chloride, which was pure enough for her to determine the atomic mass of radium. This enabled her to finally determine the structure of this element. Her discoveries were of epoch-making importance to science and presented a basis for the new field of science of that time - radioactivity.
On the basis of her research, S.-C. proposed a thesis that radioactivity was a property connected to the changing of atoms. In 1903, S.-C. earned the title doctor of physical sciences with the dissertation Research On Radioactive Substances (ciał radioaktywnych), and as the first woman received a Nobel Prize in Physics, together with her husband (irrespective of A. H. Becquerel) in December of the same year, for their achievement in the research on radioactivity.
In 1904, C. was appointed a professor of physics at the Chair of Physics of the University of Paris. S.-C. ran the laboratory at this Chair, and after the death of her husband took over the running of the Chair as well. She is the first woman in the history of the Sorbonne to be named full professor at this college (1908). She still researched radioactivity. In co-operation with the radiochemist A. Debierne, S.-C. obtained 0.1 mg of polonium and they discovered radon. C. M. Walkoff and F. Giesel confirmed the physiological effects of radium. Marie and Pierre C., together with Ch. Buchard, conducted successful research into the impact of radiation on living tissue, which stimulated the use of radioactivity in medicine. For her research into the chemical and physical properties of the elements polonium and radium, and for her research into isolation methods, purification and measurement of the activity of radioactive elements, S.-C. received another Nobel Prize in 1911, this time in chemistry. On her initiative, the building of the Radium Institute in Paris began in 1913, where she worked until her death.

During World War I, she organised a radiological service for the needs of military hospitals. She prepared some ten x-ray stations and trained people to work with these apparatuses. She also organised almost 200 permanent x-ray laboratories. Her daughter, Irene Joliot–Curie, also helped her with this activity; she later became a known scientist and received the Nobel Prize in 1835.
S.-C. greatly contributed to the development of research into radioactivity in Poland. She also co-operated with the Institute of Radiology in Warsaw. Under her leadership, Polish scholarship holders continuously worked at the Radium Institute in Paris.
On her initiative, the Radium Institute was opened in Warsaw as well. When she attended the opening of this laboratory in 1932, she used the occasion to donate 1 g of radium. She had bought it with money raised by American women for this purpose.
S.-C. spent the remainder of her life working on scientific research and teaching. The laboratory which she ran dealt with the obtainment of highly radioactive sources and the measurement of their activity.
S.-C. was a very modest scientist. Completely devoted to science, she refused all offers of material profit, which she could have gained with the patent for radium extraction. She died in the Sancellemoz sanatorium of an illness caused by radiation; she was buried alongside her husband in Sceaux near Paris. In 1995, the remains of Marie and Pierre were taken to the Paris Pantheon.

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