Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.
– Madame Marie Curie
The first woman to be awarded a Nobel prize, and then again. The only person to receive the Nobel prize in two different scientific fields. This Polish-French physicist and chemist was not just exceptionally ahead of her times in academics, but she was also a female powerhouse.
The fifth child of teachers, Bronisława, née Boguska, and Władysław Skłodowski, Marie Skłodowska Curie born Maria Salomea Skłodowska was born in Warsaw, Poland.
She was an extremely bright child and a brilliant student in secondary school. However, she was disallowed from attending the men’s-only University of Warsaw. Marie, instead, studied in Warsaw’s “floating university,” a set of underground, informal classes held in secret.
Marie and her sister Bronya wanted to study abroad but couldn’t afford it. Undeterred, Marie worked out a deal with her sister: she would work to support Bronya while she was in school and Bronya would return the favor after she completed her studies. For roughly five years, Marie worked as a tutor and a governess using her spare time to study, reading about Physics, Chemistry, and Math.
Mari finally enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1891 and completely dedicated herself to her studies. As there was a lack of money, Marie survived on buttered bread and tea, and her health often suffered because of this diet. In 1893, she finally earned her master’s degree in Physics and earned another degree in Mathematics the following year.
She married her husband Pierre Curie in 1895. They would work on separate projects but after Marie’s discovery of radioactivity, Pierre put aside his own work to help with her research. In 1903, Marie, her husband and Henri Becquerel received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on radioactivity. They used their prize money to continue their research and became acclaimed names in the field of Science across the world.
Marie suffered a huge loss when Pierre passed away in 1906 after accidentally stepping in front of a horse-drawn wagon. Even though she was grieving, she took over his position at the Sorbonne, becoming their first female professor.
Marie won her second Nobel Prize in 1911 in Chemistry for her discovery of radium and polonium. She received the prize alone but shared the honor jointly with her late husband in her acceptance lecture.
Marie then started working with other famous scientists, including Albert Einstein and Max Planck, to attend the first Solvay Congress in Physics and discuss the many groundbreaking discoveries in their field.
Madame Marie Curie is an inspiration for men and women alike, having worked tirelessly for something she was passionate about and being recognised for her efforts and achievements. She stood true to her words, curious for ideas and not for people.