Thursday, February 25, 2010


Today is the halfway point in our hero journey. Halfway in numbers that is today's heroine is another one pulled out of the hero(ine) bullpen. Her name is Marie Curie, and she was actually born on November 7th, 1867, so today is not her birthday. However, I wanted someone particularly outstanding to be the halfway point on this little journey. M. Curie was born Maria Skłodowska in Warsaw, Poland. She had a bit of a hard scrabble childhood, and eventually, through a lot of hard work, wound up at the Sorbonne (being really fucking smart helped too), where she obtained a degree in physics in 1893, and one in mathematics in 1894. In 1895, she married Pierre Curie, and a husband/wife team of brilliant experimental scientists was born. Working almost constantly in the lab, the Curies studied radiation, and uranium, and Marie coined the term "radioactivity" in a paper based on her research. That research, which included the discovery of a couple of elements (one named after her native Poland), won her and Pierre a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903. Pierre was tragically killed in 1906, and Curie was able to take over the chair in Physics that it had created for Pierre, making her the first woman to ever become a full professor at the Sorbonne. This allowed her full control over the lab, and she was able to emerge from her late husband's shadow. In 1911, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Becoming the first person ever to win two Nobel Prizes (she was already the first woman to win one), and one of only two people ever to win a Prize in two separate fields. Alas, all that messing about with radioactive "stuff" (very little was known about the long term health effects of the stuff she was dealing with), led to her death in 1934. Her papers are still considered to be dangerously radioactive, and are stored in lead boxes. If you want to see them, and handle them, you have to a radioactive suit. But, for making wonderful discoveries in the world of science, and being an idol of every little girl that wants to do science (myself included), even at the cost of her own health, Marie Curie (November 7th, 1867-July 4th, 1934, at the age of 66) you are my (halfway number 183rd) hero of the day.

1 comment:

chall said...

see, I could've written this post. I mean, sort of.... she is my hero too :)