Marie Sklodowska, was born in Warsaw in 1867. She came from a family that put a lot of importance on education. Both of her parents were teachers. Marie gained a lot of her knowledge in physics and chemistry from her father. Marie had a great passion for knowledge, but there weren’t many options for women in Poland. Her true dream was to be able to go study at the Sorbonne in Paris, but her family couldn’t afford it at the time. By the time Marie was 24 she had raised the money to go to Paris, so she packed her bags and went to Paris to live with her sister, Bronya. It had been six years since Marie had worked on her studies, but she was determined. She knew what Sorbonne could offer her, so she overcame the difficulties. To save herself a long trip to school she rented a small attic space to live in. She was so happy because she could now devote all of her time and strength to her studies. Marie was studying math and physics from France’s best known mathematicians and physicists. In 1893, after two years at Sorbonne, Marie received her degree in Mathematics. After her third year she had passed all of her math and physics exams. Her wish was to get her teaching diploma and go back to Poland.
Instead, she met Pierre Curie. Pierre was 35 years old, eight years older than Marie was. Pierre was an internationally known physicist, who wanted to devote his life to his scientific work. He worked at the School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry as head of the Laboratory. He learned all of his knowledge from his father. In July 1895, Pierre and Marie were married in the town hall at Sceaux, where Pierre’s parents lived. With the money they were given at their wedding they went out and bought bicycles for each of them. Riding their bikes became their way of relaxing, whenever they weren’t studying. In 1896 Marie received her teaching diploma, and in 1897 their daughter Irene was born.
Shortly after, Pierre started getting sick from an experiment he had done on himself. They think it had something to do with radiation in his experiment. His body shook uncontrollably to the point that he couldn’t stand up. Marie started seeing the effects of the radiation on her too. Her skin was cracked and beginning to scar and she was constantly fatigued. They had no idea that the radiation would have such a great effect on their health.
While Marie was busy with her scientific work, in 1900 she accepted a part-time teaching job at the Ecole Normale Superieur de Sevres for women. On June 25, 1903 Marie presented her doctoral thesis on her work with crystals. The committee which she presented to said it was the greatest scientific contribution ever made in a doctoral thesis. One of Marie’s research partners, Paul Langevin, planned a little celebration that night in Marie’s honor. The guests included Jean Perrin, a professor at Sorbonne, and Ernest Rutherford, a well-known scientist who wanted to meet Marie.
In 1903, Marie and Pierre were awarded with half of the Nobel Prize in Physics. The award was in recognition for the work they did on studying radiation and its effects. Even though the Nobel Prize gave them the financial stability they needed and it also put them in the eye of the public and press. It was ruining their peaceful lives and Pierre even said it kept him from getting any work done for a year.
Marie’s health started to fade again. All of her friends tried to make her work less, but she kept going. She was suffering from overexertion. At the time she wanted a new laboratory, but it wasn’t going to be possible. On April 19 1906, Pierre was run over by a horse-drawn wagon near the Pont Neuf in Paris and died. Marie was left with her two daughters Irene and Eve. Marie’s first reaction to her husband’s death was shock. The overall experience made her a stronger woman. She refused pension when it was offered; she took over position as head of the laboratory, and she took over his teaching responsibilities and on top of all of that she was appointed the first woman to teach at Sorbonne. After 9 months of teaching Marie gave her first lecture. The auditorium was packed was people from all over the country. Marie’s lecture was a great success. Her lecture was simple, but very insightful, and they loved her personality.
In 1908, Marie became the first female professor at Sorbonne. In 1911, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Chemistry for her research on radium and polonium. Later on some biographers started questioning whether Marie deserved the prize, because they thought radium and polonium were part of the reason for the 1903 Peace Prize. Marie said that the award in 1903 was awarded for a future prize in chemistry, in that the award in 1903 was just the beginning of the discovery on Radium and Polonium. Chemists said that the discovery of radium was the greatest breakthrough since the discovery of oxygen.
The next year, 1911, proved to be a bad year for her personal life. The press was really giving her a hard time. While Marie was in Belgium at the Solvay Conference, she received a message that the press was starting a campaign. It had to do with her relations with Paul Langevin. He was having marital problems and moved to a suburban home, supposedly to be near Marie. The newspapers made it sound like they were having an affair. After Marie found out about all of this, she went straight to the press and forced them to apologize to her.
A few weeks later Langevin’s apartment was broken into and some letters were stolen and given to the press. Everyday there was more and more scandalous articles about Marie in the papers. Langevin’s mother is going to court to try to get custody of the four children. No matter what Marie and Paul did, the scandal escalated more and more everyday. There was a front page headline that said “Madame Curie, can she still remain a professor at the Sorbonne.”
On the morning of November 23 something very bad happened. Certain parts of some letters that Marie and Paul had written to each other were published in the newspaper L’ Oeuvre. Despite all of the things that had been going on, Marie still managed to go to Stockholm on December 11 to give her Nobel lecture. It ended up not being a good idea because it completely wore her out and sent her into a depression. On December 29, she was admitted to a hospital of which no one knew its location. After she regained some of her strength, she went to England with one of her friends, Hertha Aytron, to get away from the press. By this time, it had been over a year since she had done any work.
Marie was now opening a whole new field of research called radioactivity. By 1914, Marie’s lab had become one of the leading ones around for researching radioactivity. Scientist from all over the world was coming to her lab to do their research. About this time, World War I broke out. Marie took her children to Brittany so they would be safe. After that Marie took a train to Bordeaux, with many other people for her own safety.
After the peace treaty in 1918, she was finally able to open her Radium Institute, which had been finished since 1914. Her Institute became France’s most well known Research Institute in many years. The only problem Marie had with the Institute was keeping it funded. She had to do many fundraisers to keep it up, and that was taking a lot of her time.
One day Marie met a female journalist named Missy. She usually would stay away from all of the press, but Marie enjoyed talking to Missy. They were very much alike in that they both had a very strong will and were very determined to accomplish their goals. Missy and Marie became very close friends. They helped each other out a lot.
After Marie ended her career, she was able to watch her daughter and son-in-law do very successful research in her lab. Marie was slowly dying of leukemia, but she lived to see them win the Nobel Peace Prize in Chemistry for Radiation in 1935. Marie passed away of eukemia on July 4 1934.