“You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right”
This is what the Wonder Woman Marie Curie taught us! She is not only known for her ground breaking Nobel Prize winning discoveries but is also an inspiration for boldly breaking several gender barriers during her lifetime. So, today on her 151st birth anniversary, let’s have a look at 10 phenomenal facts about her that will make you salute her and to look up to her even more !
Marie’s real name was Maria Sklodowska. However, when she went to Paris for higher education (after getting rejected by her native country’s colleges for being women), she signed her name as Marie to seem more French.
At the age of 17, Marie worked as a governess to pay for her sister’s medical school’s fees. Moreover, she used to study in the day and gave tuitions in the evening to make both ends meet. She subsided mainly on bread and tea, due to which her health suffered a lot and she fainted several time. But as determined she was, her hard work paid off and she earned her Master’s degree in physics in 1893 with a scholarship, and was awarded a second degree in mathematics in 1894.
While looking for a larger laboratory space for her research, she met Pierre Curie. Their common interest towards science drew them extremely closer & they got married in 1895. Their marriage was a non religious affair and instead of flaunting a bridal gown, Marie wore a dark blue dress on her special day, which later served as her laboratory dress for several years ahead.
Marie was the first woman ever to become a Professor at the University of Paris and also the first woman to receive a Ph.D from a French University.
Marie’s work was instrumental in adding two new elements to periodic table, ie Radium and Polonium. Marie Curie also created X-ray units that were helpful in treating more than a million soldiers in World War I. She established X-ray booths and also operated mobile X-ray units. These units were known as ‘petite Curies’ ie. Little curies.
Marie Curie is the only women, rather only person in history to have won Nobel Prizes in two different fields of science (Physics-1903 and Chemistry-1911). Moreover, she and her daughter Irene are the only mother-daughter pair to have both won a Nobel Prize.
Money was not something that mattered to this lady. The Curie couple did not even pursue the patent for the extraction process of radium. Consequently, radium became the centre of attraction for traders and industrialists and soon the cost of this glowing green material rose upto $100,000 per gram, and surprisingly, Marie Curie couldn’t afford to buy the material for further research, which she had discovered herself.
Along with being extraordinarily intellectual, Marie Curie also had a selfless heart. She tried to sell her Nobel Prize gold medals to contribute towards World War I efforts. However, when the French National Bank refused to accept them, she donated her prize money for the relief efforts. Moreover, Einstein quoted that she was probably the only woman whom fame and money could not corrupt.
Marie worked for most of her life in a poorly ventilated shed next to a school of physics and chemistry instead of working in a well equiped and well structured laboratory. Unaware of the fact that the radioactive elements she was working with were damaging her health, she used to keep a sample of radium next to her bed as a night light. Sadly, she died due to prolonged exposure to radiations. Even the notebooks she used are radioactive till date.
While 2011 was declared as the International year of Chemistry by the UN, Poland and France declared it as the Year of Marie Curie in her honor. She was voted as the most inspirational women in science in a poll conducted in 2009.
Happy Birthday Mam! You are truly an inspiration for all !