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Topic – Marie Curie

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Marie Curie

Marie Curie was very humble and shy. If you had passed her on the street, you would likely never have known that she was one of the most famous scientists ever. Marie was not only the first woman to win the world’s top science prize, she was also the first person to win it twice.

Little Marya

Marie was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867. Her Polish name was Marya Skłodowska (say it like this: MAR-ee-ah Skwa-DOFF-ska). She was always at the top of her class in school but, at that time, women were not allowed to go to the university in Poland.

When Marie was 23, she left Poland to study science in Paris, France. There, she met Pierre Curie, who liked science as much as she did. Most men give candy and flowers to women they like. Not Pierre. He gave Marie one of his science reports! The couple fell in love, married, and began working together.

Remarkable Radiation

Marie started examining rocks that contained the metal uranium. She knew another scientist had discovered uranium gives off invisible rays, called radiation. Marie and Pierre decided to find out more about these rays.

Marie soon discovered new metals that also gave off radiation. She named one polonium, after her home country of Poland, and the other radium, because it sounds like “radiation.” Marie and Pierre’s work with radiation earned the couple a Nobel Prize—the most important science award in the world.

Brave Marie

Sadly, just three years later, Pierre was in an accident and died. Marie continued her work and won another Nobel Prize in 1911.

World War I broke out in 1914 and France was soon under attack. Marie wanted to do all she could to help French soldiers. She loaded cars with X-ray equipment and she and other volunteers drove them to the battlefields.

The equipment helped doctors diagnose injuries quickly. Marie taught many other women how to use the X-ray machines. By the time the war ended in 1918, she had helped save the lives of many people.

Marie’s Legacy

Scientists now know that the radiation Marie discovered has many uses. Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer. People use radiation to produce electricity, and kill organisms that spoil food. Radiation is also used in smoke detectors and to find weak spots in bridges and pipelines.

Perhaps most importantly, Marie’s work still encourages girls to become scientists.

Fun Facts

  Marie graduated from high school at 15 years old. She was the top student in her class.

  After Pierre died, Marie took over his job as a professor at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. She was the first woman to teach there.

  Marie became good friends with scientist Albert Einstein.

  Marie earned her first Nobel Prize in physics, and her second Nobel Prize in chemistry.

  The notebooks that Marie used while working with uranium still give off radiation.

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