Marie curie – the radium and the radioactivity

Marie curie
Henry Becquerel’s discovery aroused the curiosity of one of the most remarkable women the world has ever known. She was Marie curie the wife of Pierre curie, a physics professor at the Sorbonne, Paris.

Her original name was Marya sklodovska and she was the daughter of a Warsaw school master. She was a brilliant student and then became a governess in a very rich polish family when she was only 18.

 She refused the proposal of a son of her employers, gathered some money and went to Paris to study science, for which she had a burning passion. She studied in Sorbonne where she had to constantly struggle against poverty and prejudice against women.

At Sorbonne she met Pierre curie, an outstanding young scientist. Soon they were attracted to each other. Their courtship was not romantic in the ordinary sense. Pierre’s first present to Marie was reprint of his latest publication, ‘on symmetry in physical phenomena: symmetry of an electric field and of a magnetic field’. 

He inscribed on the first page, ‘To Mlle. Sklodovska, with the respect and friendship of the author, P. Curie’. This intellectual attraction became abidingly faithful and they married in 1895.

Their marriage was full of the happiness of shared struggle and shared achievement. Whenever they reported their discoveries to the scientific world, they wrote as if they were one person: ‘we observed…’, ‘we concluded…’ and so on. This fidelity remained till the end.

In 1906 Pierre met with a tragic end, when he absent-minded crossed the road without looking, and was crushed beneath the wheels of a heavy vehicle.

In 1806, when the news of the Becquerel rays was published, Marie curie who was looking for a subject for the doctorate determined to find out more about these rays.

She worked hard, keeping house and looking after her first baby Irene. Using an instrument invented by Pierre, she worked the mysterious rays emitted by uranium and found that thorium also had that property.

She coined the term ‘radio activity’ to describe this property. She also found that the ore called pitchblende contained a hitherto unknown metal, which was radioactive. Hey called it radium.

This book published in 1898. But the extraction of that metal called for a long and strenuous struggle. After 45 months of back-breaking toll in a miserable old shed in the courtyard of the school of physics one tenth of a gram of pure radium was isolated. The battle was won.

After Pierre’s death Marie curie succeeded her husband as professor of physics at the Sorbonne. She received the Noble Prize in 1911. She became professor of radiology at Warsaw in 1919. She travelled the world and was honored everywhere. She died on July 4, 1934 from anemia caused by a long accumulation of radiations.

Marie curie – the radium and the radioactivity Marie curie – the radium and the radioactivity Reviewed by knowledge people creators on December 16, 2019 Rating: 5
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