Short Biography of Marie Curie
Winner of an unprecedented two Nobel Prizes, one shared with her husband and colleagues, Marie Curie became famous for her work with radium, polonium, and radioactivity. Her first Nobel Prize was for her contributions to physics, while her second was to honor her for her work in chemistry.
Marie graduated high school, called a Russian Lycée, receiving a gold medal at the young age of sixteen. Soon after graduation, she became a teacher to help support her family who had lost money in a series of unfortunate marketing errors. During her time as a teacher, she helped Polish factory workers in what was called the ‘free university’. She was also able to help her sister complete her medical studies in Paris. In return, her sister would later support Marie as she continued her studies in science.
After her sister’s graduation, Marie headed to Paris. While there, she met several prominent physicists who noticed the young lady’s intelligence and uncanny memory. Within only two years of study, she began working in mathematical sciences. She met Pierre Curie and the two were married almost immediately. They began working together on experiments in uranium; the phenomenon they came to call radioactivity. With this discovery, she was awarded a doctorate in science. In 1903, she won her first Nobel Prize – the first Nobel Prize awarded to a woman.
A short time later, she had two daughters. Pierre Curie died suddenly, leaving Marie and the children without their main supporter. Upon her husband’s death, however, Marie was given her husband’s vacant post at the Sorbonne – also the first woman to be given this position. In 1908, she became a professor, and by 1911, she won another Nobel Prize for her isolation of pure radium.
Throughout her fame, she toured all of Europe and the United States. Her daughters always remained beside her during her travels and eventually helped Curie in her research. She was made a member of the League of Nations, and was present during the opening of the Curie Foundation in Paris and the Radium Institute in Warsaw. She was an advocate of gathering as much pure radium as possible. She knew that the benefits in both medicine and physics would only be realized if there was enough of a supply. It was through Curie’s work that the fields of chemistry and physics progressed considerably.