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Marie Curie and Scientific Discovery

November 22, 2019

Marie Curie's Desk

The desk of Marie Curie

The brilliant Marie Curie pioneered the study of radioactivity, saved millions of lives, and won two Nobel Prizes.

Before her groundbreaking scientific discoveries and world-wide fame, Marie Sklodovska was born to school teachers in Russian-occupied Poland in 1867.  When Russia banned practical education in Poland, Marie’s father brought home equipment from his physics classroom and Marie loved experimenting at home.

Marie earned masters degrees in physics and chemistry from the Sorbonne in Paris, France. Although she graduated first in her class at one of best universities in the world, Krakow University in Poland refused to offer her a teaching position because she was a woman.

Unable to work in her native Poland, in 1894 Marie Sklodovska returned to Paris, where she began radical experimental work that pushed the bounds of scientific knowledge. Her partner in the laboratory and at home was the love of her life: Pierre Curie, whose last name she took when they married in 1895.  Before her 32nd birthday, Marie and Pierre Curie discovered two new chemical elements: Radium and Polonium.

In academic circles, Marie Curie’s discoveries fundamentally changed theories of how the universe was constructed, and showed that decaying atoms emitted radiation. Her discoveries also paved the way for radiation therapy to treat cancer.  First used in 1899, radiation therapy has saved millions of lives, and remains a key cancer treatment option in modified form today.

For her trailblazing discoveries regarding spontaneous radiation, Marie Curie shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics with Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel. She was the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize. In 1911, Madame Curie won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her continued work in radioactivity.  She was the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes.

With the Nobel Prizes came international fame. However, Madame Curie remained focused on her work teaching at the Sorbonne, creating mobile x-ray units for wounded World War I soldiers, and directing the laboratory at the Radium Institute in Paris. Reflecting on the roots of her passion for scientific discovery, Marie Curie shared her long-held belief that “science has great beauty.”

Our Marie Curie Hero Quote T-Shirt celebrates Madame Curie’s brilliance, discoveries, and passion for science. The glow-in-the-dark design represents the power of the atomic elements Madame Curie harnessed through her experiments, and includes her famous quote: “Science has great beauty.”


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