What is Marie Curie famous for?

Marie Curie - first woman with Nobel Prize

Marie Curie is a legendary personality: she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in physics and chemistry twice because she coined the word "radioactive". You can read here how Marie Curie changed the world of physics with her research

Marie Curie: A short profile

  • Surname: Marie Curie
  • Life data: November 7, 1867 to July 4, 1934
  • Nationality: Polish, later lived in France
  • Power: Known as a physicist and chemist. She demonstrated radioactivity and discovered two elements from chemistry
  • Quote:"I am not concerned with what has been done. I am interested in what needs to be done."

Marie and her husband Pierre Curie discovered radioactivity and used it to heal people from serious illnesses.

How Marie Curie lived

Maria Sklodowska, later Marie Curie, was born on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw. Her father was a teacher of mathematics and physics and her mother was the head of a girls' school. Education has always been very important at Sklodowska.

And Maria was extremely clever as a child, she could write and read at the age of four. She soon devoured everything that could be found in her father's bookcase: volumes of poetry, adventure novels and - physics textbooks. She was particularly fascinated by these works, which explain the world with their formulas. At the age of 15, the young girl passed her Abitur as the best in her class.

Since women were not yet admitted to universities at that time, Marie worked as a tutor for a few years. She specialized in physics and mathematics and also read many books on these topics privately. With the help of her father, she experimented a lot. Here, wrote Maria later, she learned that science is tedious and exhausting - and yet the most beautiful task on this planet. Her desire grew to start studying science in the French capital, Paris.

Marie Curie gets a place at the University of Paris

No sooner said than done: In September 1891, Marie traveled to France to enroll in physics at the Sorbonne University. She belonged to the minority: of over 1,800 students, only 23 were female. Despite initial problems with the language, Marie always came out on top. Marie Curie was doing research in a poor shed - yet she changed the world.

She got a scholarship, that is, money to continue her studies. Because she was very successful, she was also asked by the Society for the Promotion of National Industry to carry out a study. She was supposed to study the magnetic properties of some types of steel.

As part of this activity, she changed jobs and met Pierre Curie. He was also a physicist - and enthusiastic about women, their intelligence and passion. She moved into a laboratory with him. There the two fell in love and got married the following year.

Two years later, in 1897, Marie's first daughter Irène was born. At the same time, the young mother published her first scientific paper on the magnetization of steel, the research results of her study.

X-rays X-rays: a full view

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How Marie Curie changed the world

While searching for a topic for her doctoral thesis, Marie came across an essay by the French researcher Henri Becquerel. He examined the heavy metal uranium and noticed that it emits rays. What Becquerel does not answer: Where do the rays come from and how do they arise?

In 1897, Marie Curie began preparing her doctoral thesis, which she needed to graduate from university. Together with her husband, she examined metals, salts and minerals and found some kind of activity. Based on the findings of her teacher Antoine Henri Becquerel, she continued to investigate the chemical element uranium. She announced her successful results in 1898.

She used the term "radioactive" for the first time, which describes the transformation of an element, e.g. B. uranium describes. Over the years, this divides into many small elements that then begin to shine. These rays are radioactive and, as we know today, extremely dangerous. They can cause serious illnesses such as cancer in humans. Marie and her husband Pierre were sure that the rays would help to cure diseases.

This is how radioactivity is created

Since Rutherford's discovery, it has been known that, roughly speaking, every atom consists of a nucleus with an electron shell. The core is made up of positively charged Protons and uncharged Neutrons together. The number of protons determines what kind of chemical element it is. In the core of a uranium atom, for example, 92 protons and usually 146 neutrons are always clustered.

Now it is the case that protons repel each other because of their same charge as magnets with the same polarity. They would fly apart if so-called nuclear forces did not hold them together with the neutrons. However, the more particles cluster in the core, the less they can be kept in check.

With a large nucleus like that of uranium, two protons and two neutrons fly over and over again - that's what they are Alpha particles - with insane energy from the atom: a form of radioactive radiation. Since the atomic nucleus loses mass every time, the uranium slowly decays in this way. This creates the element thorium.

While the two continued their research, the successful physicist was invited to France's most famous school as the first woman. She should be teaching there. She has also been awarded several recognized prizes in physics. The crowning glory of her success in these years was the award of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, the highest award in the field.

As a result of the recognition, she and her husband receive money for their research for the first time and no longer have to work as a teacher on the side. The press pounced on the successful couple and followed them at every turn.

When Pierre Curie died in a traffic accident in 1906, Marie was very sad and became so ill that she could not look after her two daughters for a while (Ève was born in 1904).

"My life is so destroyed that it will never settle again", writes Marie after the death of her companion. They shared everything for eleven years. Without him, Marie no longer feels whole and wants to give up everything.

Even so, that same year she decided to take her deceased husband's place at the university and teach physics. This made her the first woman who was allowed to actively teach at the Sorbonne, her university.

1911: A high point in Marie Curie's life

As the first person in history, you will A second Nobel Prize in 1911 bestowed on - chemistry. When she returned to France from Stockholm, the city where the award was presented, her condition deteriorated. Marie Curie fell seriously ill, but continued to research anyway.

A milestone, in other words a great success, happened to her at the time of the First World War. Marie, who was well versed in radiology and radiation treatment, volunteered on the battlefield and cared for injured soldiers. She set up mobile X-ray facilities and received a lot of support from the French government.

In the following years, Marie Curie continued to be very active. She traveled to America and spread her knowledge in the form of lectures. At the same time, she repeatedly won important prizes.

It was only when her eyes and ears failed at the end of the 1920s that she withdrew from research with a heavy heart; the radioactive rays destroyed her body.

Her daughter Irène followed in her mother's footsteps and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 - just like Marie once did. Marie Curie did not live to see this award: She died on July 4, 1935 from the aftermath of a serious illness, which can now be traced back to the frequent handling of the radioactive elements.