Marie Curie Biography

About Madam Marie Curie:

Born on 7th November 1867, in Warsaw located in Russia Madam Marie Curie was the pioneer in the research of radioactivity and the credit of coining the term goes to her. She was also the first person to be awarded with two Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry respectively. Her achievements do not end here as it also includes her theory on radioactivity and the techniques that she used for isolating radioactive isotopes and also the two main elements known as radium and polonium. Marie Curie was the first woman to be titled with her merits in the city of Pantheon which is situated in Paris. In the year 1898, she first named with chemical element which she discovered after her native country, Polonium. She was also the first woman to be professor at the University of Paris.

Quick Facts:

  • Date of birth: 7th November, 1867
  • Place of birth: Warsaw, Russia
  • Origin: Russia
  • Profession: Professor, Scientist
  • Known for: Discovery of two chemical elements and her research in radioactivity
  • Website:

Childhood and growing up years:

Madame Marie Curie was born on 7th November 1867 in Warsaw which is located in the partition of Russia of Poland. She was the youngest and the fifth child of the well-known couple teachers of W?adys?aw Sk?odowski and Bronis?awa. Her father, W?adys?aw Sk?odowski taught physics and mathematics the subjects that Marie wanted to pursue. Apart from being a teacher, he was also the director of two popular Warsaw gymnasia which was exclusively for boys in addition to acting as a lodge for boys in the house of the family while Marie’s mother was employed in a prestigious Warsaw boarding school which was meant for girls. However, Marie Curie lost her mother at the age of twelve as she died of tuberculosis. Madam Marie Curie’s father was an atheist while her mother was a devout Catholic. The death of her mother and her little sister caused Maria to give up on her Catholicism classes and become an agnostic.

At the age of ten, Maria Curie was enrolled in a boarding school where her mother was employed and then later on attended the gymnasium for girls from where she graduated in the year 1883 on 12th June. And the following year she spent in the countryside amidst her father’s relatives and then the next year with her father in the village of Warsaw where she indulged herself in some tutoring. As her parents financial status was not in a good shape as the family had lost their fortunes because of patriotic involvements. The upbringing and studies of the children became difficult. Then, Maria made an agreement with the sister that she would provide her with financial assistance for her medical studies in Paris in return for similar assistance two years later. For this purpose, Marie took up a job as a governess with a lawyer’s family in Krakow and two years later she was a governess for a Ciechanow family, who were indeed her relatives. When she was working with the latter family, Maria fell in love with their son known as Kazimierz ?orawski and he was reciprocated by this future mathematician. However, his parents rejected the proposal of marrying the penniless Maria and Kazimierz was unable to cope with his love and was not able to oppose his parents. Consequently, Maria lost the position of being a governess in the family and she found another employment as a governess in the Fuchs family who lived on the Baltic Sea coast, in whose house she spent a year while providing financial assistance to her sister.

By the year 1890, Maria Curie was married to Kazimierz and a few months later, she was invited by her sister to join her in Paris. Unfortunately, Maria had to decline this offer as she could not afford the tuition fee of the university. She then returned back to her father who was still living in Warsaw and stayed with him till the fall of 1891. During this time, she tutored and also studied at the Floating University. Apart from this, at the same time she also began with her practical scientific training from a laboratory which was located in the Museum of Industry and Agriculture located close to the Warsaw’s Old Town. In the year of 1891 October, she received a letter from ?orawski in which he wrote about breaking his relation with her and at the same time, her sister was insisting her to come to France so in the same year she left to France. The loss of the relation was a tragic for both Maria and also ?orawski. In Paris, Maria Curie took shelter at her sister and brother-in-law’s after later she rented out a primitive garret and proceeded with her studies of mathematics, physics and chemistry at the University of Paris (Sorbonne). She studied during the day and tutored in the evening. Her earning barely sufficient for her and in the year of 1893, she was awarded with a degree in the field of physics from where she began her work in the industrial laboratories of Lippman’s.  In the meantime, she continued her studies from Sorbonne and in 1894 she earned her degree in the field of mathematics. It was during this time that she met Pierre Curie who was her instructor at the School of Physics and Chemistry. Further, she also started her scientific career in Paris by working on an investigation case about the magnetic properties of various steels and brought about her interest for magnetism and at the same time drew Marie and Pierre together. She departed from Paris to Warsaw for her summer vacation, and this distance only enhanced the feelings for each other. She had plans of returning to Poland and study in their field of interest and it was then that she was denied with the chance of entering into the Krakow University just because she was a woman and so she returned back to Paris. A year later, in the year of 1895 in month of June, Pierre Currie and Maria got married while Maria became Maria Currie and after this the two physicists hardly left their laboratory. The couple shared similar hobbies, went on long bicycle rides and made trips to abroad. All this brought them closer to each other and Maria had finally found a new partner and also a scientific collaborator in whom she could depend.

Claim to fame:

In the year 1896, following the discovery of Henri Becquerel who discovered a new phenomenon where he demonstrated that the radiation did not depend on any external source of energy but it seemed to have aroused spontaneously from the element uranium. Curie who was looking up for a thesis subject during the same time decided to study the uranium rays and take this field of research as a possible thesis topic. Making use of a clever technique, she first investigated the samples and using the electrometer which was invented by her husband and his brother fifteen years ago, she discovered the uranium rays which were caused by air samples that conduct electricity. By making use of this technique, her first observation was on finding that the activity of uranium depends on the quantity of the uranium present in the component. She also showed that the radiation was not on the outcome but on the interaction of certain molecules that comes out from the atom. However, this was the one of the most significant piece of development that was conducted in the field of science. Her systematic studies included the study of two uranium minerals such as the torbernite and the pitchblende. Pierre Curie also joined her at work that she had taken up to resolve the problem and this led to the discovery of new elements such as the radium and the polonium. Pierre Curie devoted his entire time to study the physical structure of the new radiations while Marie Curie was involved to obtain the pure form of radium in its metallic state and she achieved this with the help from the chemist Andre Louis Debierne, who was one of Pierre Curie’s pupils. In 1898 in July, Marie Curie along with her husband published in the paper that announced the existence of an element which they termed as polonium in the honor of their native land “Poland”. In the same year on 26th December, the couple made another announcement of the existence of a second element which they termed as “radium” because of its intense radioactivity. They also took the struggle to separate radium through differential crystallization and in the year 1906, she isolated the pure radium metal. In honor of her results, she was given the doctorate in science on June 1903 while Pierre was awarded with the Davy Medal of the Royal Society. In the year of 1903, they shared the Nobel Prize with Becquerel who was first person to invent the process of radioactivity.

Marie Curie had two daughters, Irne and Ve respectively in the year 1897 and 1904. However, the birth of her two daughters did not disturb her intense scientific studies and she was also appointed as a lecturer for Physics at the cole Normale Superieure which was for girls in Svres. It was here that she was introduced to the method of teaching that was based on experimental demonstrations. In the year 1904, in December she was appointed as the chief assistant for the laboratory which was directed by Pierre Curie.

In 1906, on 19th April, Pierre died in a street accident while he was walking across the Rue Dauphine in the heavy rain. He was struck by a horse-vehicle and fell under its wheels where his skull got fractured. Although, it had also been speculated that he was previously weakened by continuous exposure to radiation but however there were no indication that this contributed to his accident. This sudden death of her husband had a bitter blow on Marie Curie and she was devasted by the loss of his life. But however, this turned to be as a decisive point in her successful career and thereafter she devoted all her time and energy to complete alone the scientific work that she and her husband had undertaken. In the year of 1906, on 13th of May she was the physics department of the Sorbonne decided that she would retain the chair which was earlier designed for Pierre curie and this position was thus entrusted to Marie Curie as they believed that she had the ability to do justice to the position and so they handed over entire authority of the laboratory to her. With this Marie Curie had become the first woman to teach at Sorbonne and this allowed her to rise from the shadows of Pierre and this exhausting work schedule gave her a new meaning for her life. In the year 1908, she became the titular professor and in 1910, she got her research n radioactivity published. Her recognition grew to heights by now and in the year 1911, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded her with her second Nobel Prize and this time she had been honored for her work in the field of Chemistry as she isolated the pure radium. A group of Polish delegates, headed by a world-famous novelist Henry Sienkiewicz, encouraged her to come back to Poland in order to continue her research in her native country. In the year of 1914, she completed the building of laboratories at the Radium Institute which was known as Institut du Radium located at the University of Paris and this Institute conducted research in field of medicine, chemistry and also physics.

Marie Curie played a significant role during the World War I, with the help of her elder daughter who also devoted her time for the development of the use of X-Radiography. Curie encouraged people to use mobile radiography which were popularly known as “petites Curies” and this could used to treat the wounds of the soldiers. Marie Curie supplied these tubes of radium that was derived from materials that she purified. After the war had begun, she also donated her gold Nobel medals that both her husband and she had been awarded to the efforts of the war. She was an active member in the Committees of Polish Polonia which was dedicated to the Polish cause situated in France.  By 1918, Marie Curie was at the highest point of success on her life and in the year of 1922 she also became a member at the Academy of Medicine which supported her research studies of radioactive substances and also the medical applications of these substances.

In the year 1921, along with her two daughters, Marie Curie made a glorious journey to the United States in order to raise funds for her research on the subject of radium. After her interview with Mrs. William Brown Meloney, she announced to buy one gram of radium and also helped Curie in publicizing the trip. As part of this journey she also met the then President Warren G. Harding who received her at the White House. She made her second American tour in the year 1929 after she succeeded in equipping the Warsaw Radium Institute which was founded in the year 1925 accompanied by her sister Bronis?awa who was the director of the Institute. She also gave lecturers by touring the countries of Spain, Belgium, Brazil and Czechoslovakia. All these tours were distractions from her scientific studies as the attendant publicity caused her much distress but however, it provided her with ample resources that war required for her work. She was also made a member of the International Commission on Intellectual Co-operation by the Council of the League of Nations. Apart from this she also had the satisfaction of watching the developments as part of the Curie Foundation which was established in Paris and was inaugurated in the year of in the year of 1932 in Warsaw. In the later years, she visited the Curie Pavilion which was a radioactivity laboratory that was created for her by the Pasteur Institute along with the efforts of the University of Paris. This was one among her four major radio-activity research laboratories.


Her work had paved way for further discoveries like for instance the discovery of neutron by Sir James Chadwick and also the discovery of artificial radioactivity in the year 1934 by Irne and Frederic Joliot Curie. A few month after this discovery, Madame Marie Curie visited Poland for the last spring in her life in the year 1934 cause in 4th July, 1934 she dies in the eastern part of France as a result of leukemia which she had contracted from her long-term exposure to the radiations of radium and various other substances. The negative effects of these ionizing radiation elements were not known by then and Marie Curie would often carry out her experiments and other work in a shed which did not have proper safety measure. Also, she would carry test tubes that would consist of radioactive isotopes in her pants and also stored them in her desk drawer. All these would give out harmful radiations in the dark. All this was the cause of her death and she was buried at the cemetery in Sceaux where she lies just beside her husband. Sixty years after her death, in the year of 1995 the remains of the couple was transferred to Pantheon located in Paris as a respect of their achievements. By this act, she became the only woman so far to be buried in the Pantheon and her laboratory is preserved at the Musee Curie.

Madame Marie Curie’s contribution to Physics is immense and the importance of her work has been marked by her two Nobel Prizes and her influence has been on generations to come. Marie Curie has been a famous icon as a nuclear physicist and also a chemist. Along with the efforts of Irne Joliot-Curie she wrote an entry on the subject of radium in the 13th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica which was published in the year 1926.

Awards and Nominations Received:

The most notable award received by Madame Marie Curie is the Nobel Prize as she was the first woman to achieve the Nobel Prize and also the first person to have won two Nobel Prizes. The first Nobel Prize was given to her in the year 1903 for her contribution in the field of Physics and the second was honored to her in the year 1911 for her contribution in Chemistry.

In the year 1904, she was awarded with the Davy Medal.

Marie Curie has also been given the Matteucci Medal in the year 1904. In the year of 1909, she received the Elliot Cresson Medal and the Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society in the year 1921.

Personal Quotes:

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all, confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.”

“Humanity needs practical men, who get the most out of their work, and, without forgetting the general good, safeguard their own interests. But humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.”

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”

“We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science, and then there is always the chance that a scientific discovery may become like the radium a benefit for humanity.”

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