Madame Curie was the only women who took home Noble prize twice. Unbelievable courage, persistent determination, perfect enthusiasm in favour of own zeal and zest, enabled her to take the coveted part of the male-dominated world.
She was born as Marie Sklodowska Curie on 7 November 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. She was the fifth and youngest daughter among her five brothers and sisters. Her father Moesia Wladyslaw Sklodowski and mother Bronislawa Sklodowska were professors of Mathematics and Physics.
At that time, Poland was under control of Czar, Russia and her father was a patriotic person. Due to his patriotic movement, he lost his service, and had to go through economic crisis. Marie lost her mother at a very young age of nine. She left Warsaw in 1891 and went to Sorbonne, Paris, France to pursue her studies. She was the first women who graduated at Sorbonne in 1894. In the same year, she came in touch with Pierre Curie, the chief of laboratory at the City School of Physics and Chemistry. Later they felt for each other and married in the year 1895.
In 1896, scientist Henri Becquerel observed that uranium compounds gave off penetrating rays (Spontaneous Radiation). Marie found this quite interesting and soon the couple Pierre and Marie started working on Becquerel’s discovery. In 1898, they discovered a new element from uranium ore pitchblende. They named this new element as Polonium (in tribute of Marie’s motherland Poland).
In 1903, the Curie couple was honoured with a Nobel Prize with Henri Becquerel, in the section of Physics. In the same year (1906), a mishap occurred where Pierre passed away in a road accident.
It was suspected that Pierre had bone cancer due to exposure of radium salts as he carried it in his pocket to show its illuminated rays to others. In 1911, Marie was again awarded with a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for isolating radium in pure form and studying its properties and compounds. The unit of radium was named “Curie” in her credit, and the element of atomic number 96 was named “Curium”. Marie proved that one of the chief uses of radium salts is a source of alpha particles, so it successfully destroys the malignant (cancer) cells.
Today’s successful radiotherapy to combat carcinoma was developed by her. This great lady of the world had finished her battle of existence in respect of her services with excellence on 4 July 1943. The cause of her death was diagnosed as plastic anaemia, which might be developed due to excessive exposure of radium, which cures many cancers and saves many lives.
The work of Madame was carried forward by Irene Curie and Frederick Joliot, her daughter and son-in-law respectively. The couple was honoured again with a Noble Prize in good turn of their achievements of ‘Artificial Radioactivity’, for chemistry on 1935. Pierre Joliot, the son of Irene and Frederick visited Kolkata in November 2011.
(Annesha Chatterjee, Coordinator, Class XI, Kalyani University Experimental High School, Kalyani, Nadia)