W HO W AS M ARIE C URIE ? Marie Curie, was born in Warsaw in modern-day Poland on November 7, Both of Marie Curies parents were teachers, and she was the youngest of five children, following siblings Zosia, Józef, Bronya and Hela. As a child Curie took after her father, Wladyslaw, a math and physics instructor. She had a bright and curious mind and excelled at school. However, tragedy struck early: When she was only 10, Curie lost her mother to tuberculosis.
E DUCATION A top student in her secondary school, Curie could not attend the men's-only University of Warsaw. She instead continued her education in Warsaw's "floating university," a set of underground, informal classes held in secret. Both Curie and her sister Bronya dreamed of going abroad to earn an official degree, but they lacked the financial resources to pay for more schooling. For roughly five years, Curie worked as a tutor and a governess. She used her free time to study, reading about physics, chemistry and math. In 1891, Curie finally made her way to Paris and enrolled at the Sorbonne. She threw herself into her studies, but this dedication had a personal cost. With little money, Curie survived on buttered bread and tea, and her health sometimes suffered because of her poor diet. Curie completed her master's degree in physics in 1893 and earned another degree in mathematics the following year.
H USBAND AND D AUGHTERS In 1891, she went to Paris to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne where she met Pierre Curie, professor of the School of Physics. They were married in In 1897 Marie and Pierre Curie welcomed a daughter, Irène. The couple had a second daughter, Ève, in Irène Joliot-Curie followed in her mother's footsteps, winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in Joliot-Curie shared the honor with her husband, Frédéric Joliot, for their work on the synthesis of new radioactive elements. Pierre's life was cut short in 1906 when he was knocked down and killed by a carriage.
W HAT D ID M ARIE C URIE D ISCOVER ? The Curies worked together investigating radioactivity, building on the work of the German physicist Roentgen and the French physicist Becquerel. In July 1898, the Curies announced the discovery of a new chemical element, polonium. At the end of the year, they announced the discovery of another, radium. The Curies, along with Becquerel, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in Marie took over his teaching post, becoming the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne, and devoted herself to continuing the work that they had begun together. She received a second Nobel Prize, for Chemistry, in The Curie's research was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During World War One Curie helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines. The International Red Cross made her head of its radiological service and she held training courses for medical orderlies and doctors in the new techniques.
N OBEL P RIZES Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first personman or womanto win the prestigious award twice. She remains the only one to be honored for accomplishments in two separate sciences. In 1903, Curie received the Nobel Prize in Physics, along with her husband and Henri Becquerel, for their work on radioactivity. With their win, the Curies developed an international reputation for their scientific efforts, and they used their prize money to continue their research. In 1911, Curie won her second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry, for her discovery of radium and polonium.