Published on November 10th, 2014 | by Anna Cederlund


Issue 11: Marie Sklodowska-Curie

In Issue 11, page 11 ‘The People’s Science’ we mistakenly did not print out Marie Sklodowska-Curie’s full name. We do apologise for this error, and thought it be a good time to talk a little bit about how this amazing scientist came to be.

marie curie

She was the first researcher to win the Nobel Prize in two different fields; physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911. Only one other researcher shares this great achievement; Linus Pauling (in chemistry and the peace prize). Born in Warsaw, 1867, Marie Sklodowska-Curie had to fight for her education. Her parents were well-known teachers, and did their best to educate their youngest daughter. In 1883 Marie Sklodowska graduated from her gymnasium with a gold medal. She was however unable to continue in a higher institution due to her gender. She tutored with her father, and her and her older sister Brontislawa were involved in an underground institution for higher learning that did admit women.

Brontislawa and Marie eventually set up an agreement: if Marie helped Brontislawa financially during her medical studies in Paris, Brontislawa would do the same for her. It still took Marie another few years before she could actually leave Poland and continue her studies in Paris. In 1891 at the age of 24, Marie Sklodowska left her beloved Poland, and embarked on a journey that would leave her to be remembered even 100 years later.

She was the first researcher to win the Nobel Prize in two different fields; physics in 1903 and chemistry in 1911.

Life was still difficult for young Marie, as she had to tutor to cover her outcomes. She subsided on very meagre resources and would occasionally faint from hunger. Even when she had gained recognition as a top class researcher she had to fight for her place at the University of Paris, who did not sponsor her research. Her and husband Pierre Curie were not awarded their own dedicated laboratory until after they jointly won the Nobel Prize in physics.

Thankfully she persevered, and her legacy is still strong. I encourage you to watch the BBC documentary made about her and her life as a truly remarkable scientist.


About the Author

Anna is a PhD student in the School of Medical Sciences. She currently is busy squishing cartilage. When not looking at videos of tiny pieces of cartilage and programming MATLAB she enjoys sunny weather, tea and editing.

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