Marie Curie Radioactive Substances

ISBN 13: 9780486425504

Radioactive Substances

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In 1911, Marie Curie received the Nobel prize in chemistry for isolating radium. This profound distinction literally cost the scientist her life, for she ultimately died from exposure to the deadly rays from the element she and her husband discovered. Here is her story, recounted in her own words, of the momentous discovery and her further investigation of radioactive substances. Born in Poland in 1867, Marie Sklodowska enrolled at the Sorbonne after the University of Warsaw refused her admission because of her gender. There she not only earned her master's degree and doctorate in physics but also became the first woman faculty member in the school's history. In this memoir, she recounts the struggles and triumphs of a life dedicated to the study of science, in a tale whose truth makes it more gripping and poignant than any fiction.

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About the Author:

MARIE CURIE (née Maria Sklodowska) was born on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland. Her mother Bronislawa Boguska, was an accomplished pianist, singer, and teacher, and her father, Wladyslaw Sklodowski, was a professor of mathematics and physics. A brilliant student, Marie gained a gold medal upon completing her secondary education in 1883. Refused admission to the University of Warsaw because she was a woman, she earned her living as a private tutor and governess. One of her sisters, Bronya, was already studying medicine in Paris, and she encouraged Marie to move there. 

In November 1891 Marie enrolled at the Sorbonne, where she would earn her doctorate in physics in 1904. In 1894 she met Pierre Curie (1859–1906) at the School of Physics and Chemistry of the University of Paris while working in his laboratory on her research project. They wed in 1895.
The Curies began their research into the mysterious radiation from uranium that had been discovered by Antoine Henri Becquerel (1852–1908) and in 1898 announced the discovery of radium. In 1903 the Curies and Becquerel were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their work on radioactivity. In 1904 Marie published her thesis, Radioactive Substances.

After the death of Pierre on April 19, 1906, Curie succeeded her husband as professor of general physics at the Sorbonne, becoming the first woman faculty member in the 650 years of the school’s existence. In 1908 she taught the first and at that time the only course on radioactivity ever offered at the Sorbonne. In 1911 she received the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her discovery of polonium and radium and for isolating pure radium. She was the first person ever to receive the award twice. During World War I she organized radiological units for hospitals. She was the director of the research department of the Radium Institute of the University of Paris (1918–1934). 

Curie died on July 4, 1934, in Valence, France, a victim of exposure to the deadly rays from radium. Her last book, Radioactivity (1935), was edited by her daughter Irène, who shared the 1935 Nobel Prize in chemistry with her husband, Jean-Frédéric Joliet, for their discovery of new radioactive isotopes prepared artificially.

Language Notes:

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French

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