Marie Curie

Marie Curie was born on November 7th 1867 in Warsaw Poland. Her name before she was married and was changed to English was Marya Sklodowsha. Marie was the youngest of five children. Marie was born right in their apartment on Freta Street. She was the child of Bronislawa and Wladysaw. Marie’s mother Bronislawa was a schoolteacher and the head mistress of one of Warsaw’s better girl’s schools plus she ran the big household of five kids and a husband. Marie’s father Wladysaw ran several schools including a reformatory school. Marie’s Father also studied Biology at the university of Warsaw. He never missed out on an opportunity to teach his kids something.

When Marie was four Wladysaw’s brother came to live with them for a little while. Little did anyone know he was infected with Tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is a deadly flu that is carried in the air. There was no cure for it back then. Bronislawa because of this got infected with Tuberculosis. Bronislawa would often go with Marie’s oldest sister Zosia to a warmer climate for a cure. When Bronislawa was home she isolated from the kids in another room. When Marie was nine Bronislawa died. This was the first tragedy in Marie’s life. Marie got depressed and wouldn’t stop crying for a long time. This got Marie on her first track to being a scientist. Marie and her sisters would often play doctor that would find out the magical cure.

In the 1790’s the polish resistance began. This is when Russia, Prussia and Austria invaded and took over Poland. The section where Marie and her family lived Russia controlled. They split Poland up between the countries. Wladysaw did not participate in armed revolt against the countries but he did participate in the passive resistance. Passive resistance is when teachers continued to teach polish curriculum when Russian authorities weren’t around. When Russian authorities were around they read Russian passages. Since Marie was the best student in the class often she would have to read Russian passages out loud in Russian. At 10 Marie was transferred to a Russian controlled school where they only spoke Russian in class and were only taught Russian curriculum. This didn’t bother Marie to much just made her work harder. Marie and her family had to move to student borders since Marie’s father lost his job because the way he ran his school the passive resistance way. His job was given to a Russian. At fifteen Marie graduated and was valevictorian. After all the hard work Marie went through she suffered from depression because of it. Marie’s Father then sent Marie and Helena off to their rich uncles house so they could relax.

After relaxing for a bit Bronia and Marie came up with a plan for both of them to get money to go to college in Paris. They could not go to college at the University of Warsaw because Russian rule said women could not go to college. Marie would go and work as a governess and support Bronia while she went to college in Paris at Sorbonne for medical school.. Marie while she was a governess she attended the “Flying University”. The Flying University was a secret academy that taught college coerces to women who couldn’t move. These were taught by college professors at houses museums. Marie attended science classes during the week and then performed labs at her cousins lab on weekends on her own.

While she was a governess she fell in love with her employers son Kazimierz. They often talked about marriage but their parents rejected her. They rejected her because of her family’s financial situation. This made her work even harder. This is When she chose to study mathematics and physics. All hope for Kazimierz and her was gone when she left for college.
In 1891 Marie finally got to go to Sorbonne in Paris. When she started college she moved in with her sister Bronia and her husband also named Kazimierz. Marie liked it for a while having people stop by that were friends of Kazimierz that were polish socialists that loved to talk about politics. When she got serious about school though it got a little to crowded. Kazimierz had clients during the day and the ran a free clinic in the evening. This is when Marie moved to the sixth floor of the Latin Quarter on the left bank of Paris.

In 1893 Marie graduated first in her class in Physics. Even after this she kept on studying at Sorbonne. She finished her masters in mathematics one year later this time second in her class. During the spring she was at a friends house and met a guy named Pierre Curie. A few months after this Pierre and Marie were engaged. They were both very different Marie would always go after go after what she wanted. Pierre was a drop out and had a learning disability. At age 18 Pierre got his masters degree. After this he worked with his brother studying crystals. There research resulted in the discovery of piezo-electricity when he was 21. Pierre never wrote up a thesis to finish his decorate. When Pierre decided to win Marie over. This is when Pierre wrote up his thesis for his decorate. Marie and Pierre were married on July 26th 1895.

For the next fourteen years her and Pierre would collaborate together in radioactivity. Marie played chemist and Pierre was to work on the physics of it. Marie’s thesis was to find more radioactive elements like Uranium. Becquerel discovered uranium one year before. Pierre got her a lab to work for courtesy of EPCI where Pierre worked. The labatory wasn’t all that great to work in. Marie also relied on a instrument that Pierre built called piezo-electrical that measures radioactive particles. Marie came up with the idea that radioactivity was caused by atoms. In 1903 Marie and Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel were awarded the Nobel Prize for their work in radioactivity.

To produce radium from uranium takes a long time and was very time consuming. One mole of radium had a mass of 226 grams. It is guessed that she was exposed to 1 rem (unit of radiation) a week. Now .03 rem is considered dangerous. After all the press got there word in Radium was considered the miracle drug. Marie kept a glass vial of radium salts by her bed at home. In the dark it would produce a blue glow. Marie and Pierre both had scars on there fingers and constantly hurt because of holding radioactive samples. The Curie’s and Becquerel had all accidental burns on them from radium salts. Marie was always tired without being ill and she also lost 15 pounds. After her first child Irene who was born on September 12th 1897 she had a miscarriage to her second child due to radiation exposure. What the Curies did not know is radium gives off what they call gamma rays. Gamma rays are very dangerous and destroy tissue and will destroy anything but lead. In December 1903 the Curies were to sick to receive there 2nd Nobel Prizes. Their doctors could find nothing wrong with them.

In December 1904 they had their second child Eve. Three years later Pierre was getting really sick and was having back problems. Marie was also getting sick. Marie was now spending less time at the lab. Eve was now getting sick. On April 19th 1906 Pierre died by opening his umbrella on the way into a street. A car then hit him. After Pierre’s death Sorbonne University appointed Marie as professor of Physics. In 1909 they started construction on a lab that was promised to Pierre called the Radium Institute. In 1910 Marie started to see Paul Langevin a fellow scientist. This affair almost lost Marie her Job. Paul was married with four children. Marie wrote letters to Paul trying to get him to leave his wife for her. Jeanne (Pauls wife) intercepted the letters and blackmailed Marie by saying shed publish them. Marie gave her 5,00 francs. Parts of her letters were still published and protestors surrounded her house and lab. Marie won another Nobel prize for discovering polonium another radioactive element earlier that year. She was asked not to come because of the scandal but did anyway.
Marie now went under kidney surgery. Her kidneys had been scared from TB and got infected years later. Her recovery took about a year and she barely got to see her kids. During ww1 Marie And Irene developed the x-ray machine and trained doctors to use it. Teaching them how to find and remove bullets. Irene followed in her mom’s footsteps studying radioactive elements. When Irene was 28 she married Frederick Joliot and became a research team just like Marie and Pierre. The Curie-Joliot team one a Nobel Prize for artificial Radiation.

When Marie was sick she would still go to work and do her daily rounds trying to give help to her researchers anyway she could. She would check their research and give any help necessary. Marie then came down with cataracts in her eyes and needed surgery. She came down with tittinitus and also the pains that Pierre and many scientists came down with from radiation poisoning. On July 4th 1934 Marie died of leukemia. It is now known that she died of radiation exposure. She had more exposure then anyone ever. Marie’s ashes were buried in a crypt in the Pantheon witch is dedicated to heroes.

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