Marie Curie... She is best known for her discovery of radium and polonium and her work with radioactivity. She encountered times of adversity in her career just because she was a woman, but she met her challenges and overcame them. Marie Curie exceeded the barriers put on women in her time to become one of the world’s most famous scientists and used her knowledge to the benefit of humanity.
Marie Curie was breaking barriers even when she was young. Marya Salomee Sklodowska was born on November 7, 1867 in Russia controlled Poland. From an early age, Sklodowska showed a great memory and exceptional intelligence. In Poland, not many institutions, including the University of Warsaw, welcomed women. She wanted so badly to further pursue an education that she attended the Floating University or Flying University, an illegal school that admitted girls. Sklodowska got an interest in science and mathematics at the Flying University.
Even as she continued her education in Paris, she was still blazing a path for women as she succeeded in a male dominated academic field. When Sklodowska registered for classes at the University of Paris, she used the French equivalent of her name, Marie. La Sorbonne only had had 23 women enrolled out of almost two thousand students. During her time as a student, she had to make ends meet with very little money. At La Sorbonne, she got her master’s degree in physics and quickly followed with a master’s degree in mathematics.
Pierre Curie help her gain recognition in a field with very few women. Marie Sklodowska met Pierre Curie when Joseph Kowalski introduced them so she could use his lab to study the magnetic properties of various types of steel to make money. Pierre instantly fell in love with Sklodowska, but she was hesitant to start a romantic relationship. She later warmed up to him and they got married in 1895.
With her experiments, she became the first woman in France to get a doctorate. Curie decided to continue Henri Becquerel’s experiments with X-rays. She came up with the groundbreaking idea that the rays were actually an atomic property. The paper she wrote reporting her discoveries had to be presented through her professor because women weren’t allowed to address the Academy of Sciences. With this, she continued her work to find new elements. First, she found polonium, which is named for her home country, and then she discovered radium. Pierre and Marie’s greatest work was done in a run-down shed. They worked from 1898 to 1902. The Curies could have made a fortune if they patented their process of extracting and refining radium, but they decided share their knowledge with the world.
Marie Curie became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize when the Curies shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Becquerel in 1903 for their work with radioactivity. In the 1900s, women still had a relegated role in science. Marie Curie wasn’t allowed to speak with her husband on stage at the award ceremony and had to...