Marie Curie Essay

Submitted By smolive
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College Physics

Marie Curie

We know her today as Marie, Curie, the first women to win a Nobel Prize in physics and a secondary Nobel Prize in Chemistry; this is just a glimpse of her story. Born on November 7th, 1867 in Warsaw Poland to teachers Bronisława and Władysław Skłodowski, she was born under the name, Maria Sklodowska(Badash, Lawrence). Marie was the youngest of five children. Maria received a general education in local schools and some scientific training from her father. When she was 10 years old her mother died of tuberculosis, a short time after her oldest sister had died of typhus. Marie struggled on with her studies despite the deaths and graduated high school at age 15. After graduation Marie was in a great depression and took a year off of school and stayed with relatives.
Marie recovered and became involved in a students' revolutionary organization and left her home town. In 1891, she went to Paris to continue her education at Sorbonne where she obtained Licentiateships in Physics and the Mathematical Sciences. While attending Sorbonne, she got engaged to Pierre Curie who was the Professor of the school of physics and one year in 1885 they were married. A couple of years later their daughter Irene was born. Marie and her husband had poor work conditions but through it all were able to do much research. On December 26th, 1898, Marie discovered that the level of radiation emitted depended only on the quantity of the Uranium contained in a compound, and not on the types of other elements that the compound contained. This meant that the "radioactivity” was the result of something going on within the Uranium atoms themselves(Badash, Lawrence).
At the same time that Marie was discovering additional radioactive properties and elements. She found that like Uranium, Thorium also emitted radiation. Marie and Pierre began working together, isolating radioactive elements from a Uranium ore compound called "pitchblende", they managed to uncover two entirely new elements, each highly radioactive. These they named "Radium" and "Polonium", in honor of Marie's native Poland. Their groundbreaking work on the elements and their properties, and their research into potential applications, brought them much needed funding from industry and earned them the Nobel Prize for physics. Marie earned her doctorate degree in 1903, becoming the first woman in France to achieve that distinction (Badash, Lawrence)!
Shortly after all of this success, in 1906 her husband, Pierre slipped and fell and his head was crushed by a wagon killing him. Marie Curie took her husband’s place as the Professor of Physics, and also the Director of the laboratory at the Radium Institute of the University of Paris (Badash, Lawrence). Marie developed methods for the separation of radium from radioactive residues in sufficient quantities to allow for its characterization and the careful study of its properties, therapeutic properties in particular. She used the radium to help with suffering in WWI. Marie set up 200 stationary x-ray stations and 20 mobile x-ray stations which were also known as, “petites Curies” to help doctors identify and treat bullet wounds, broken bones and other ailments. A typical x-ray unit weighed about 100 kg, not including the power source! Radon tubes were even used by doctors to destroy a patient's diseased tissue (Badash, Lawrence). Meanwhile, Marie trained her eldest daughter. After the war she continued her fundraising for the Radium Institute, even traveling to the U.S. in 1921. While in the United States, she collected vast amounts of donations and one gram of radium! Marie built a laboratory in her hometown, and soon after, President Hoover presented her with a gift of $ 50,000, donated