Marie Curie was a physicist, chemist, inventor and philanthropist, who is not only credited for her discovery of two radioactive elements but also acknowledged for her contribution to the evolution of mankind, assistance during the wars and healthcare of the public at large. Born as Maria Salomea Sklodowska on 7th November, 1867, in erstwhile Russia occupied Poland, Marie Curie moved to Paris and became a French citizen. She was hailed for her pioneering research in radioactive elements and use of radioactivity in treating ailments. She is one of the few all-time greatest scientists. Here are a few Marie Curie major accomplishments.
Discovery of Radium and Polonium
Marie Curie was researching the radioactive properties of various elements including thorium and a few minerals of uranium. She had succeeded in deducing how uranium rays increased conductivity in the air. During this phase when she was working in her lab, circa 1912, she ended up discovering Polonium and in the process of doing that she discovered Radium. She came up with the word radioactivity and also started working on its use to cure cancer.
First Woman to Win a Nobel
Marie Curie became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize in any category. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Physics. She shared the prize with Pierre Curie, her husband and lifelong fellow researcher, and with Henri Becquerel. She was acknowledged with the prize for her achievements in radiation.
First Person to Win a Second Nobel
Marie Curie received a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry for her discovery of radium and polonium, including her works on compounds and nature of radium. She was the first woman to win two Nobel Prizes. She was also the first person to have such an accomplishment. Also, she is the one of the two Nobel Laureates in history to have won the prize in two fields. There are two other Nobel Laureates who have won two each but in the same field for different works.
Awards & Recognitions Galore
As she bagged her first Nobel, Curie won the Davy Medal in 1903, then the Matteucci Medal in 1904, the Elliott Cresson Medal in 1909 and then she got her second Nobel, followed by the Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society in 1921. She had received honorary doctorates from various universities across the world.
Director of Physics Laboratory at Sorbonne Paris
Marie Curie was the first women to be appointed as the director of the physics lab at Sorbonne and she was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris. She became a professor of General Physics and was a part of the Faculty of Sciences. She also became the director of Curie Laboratory at the Radium Institute of the University of Paris.
Little Curies to the Rescue
Marie Curie was a scientist, pioneer and innovator in its truest sense. She worked on radiology and although the use of radioactivity was limited in curing cancer, she did succeed in using her knowledge and findings to make the first ever portable X-Ray machines, fondly called little curies. She developed a radiology unit during World War I and thereon her X-Ray machines were used on the battle field to diagnose the wounds of soldiers. She developed radiology units which were again portable and those assisted the field surgeons during the war. The radiology units had hollow needles that contained radon which were used to sterilize wounds and instruments.
Educational, Humanitarian & Healthcare Accomplishments
Marie Curie was appointed as the director of Red Cross Radiology Service. This was the first ever military radiology center which she set up herself in France. She founded the Radium Institute in Warsaw. It was later renamed in her honor after World War II. It is presently called Maria Skłodowska-Curie Institute of Oncology. Curie also founded the Curie Institutes in Warsaw and Paris. She had also raised money after the First World War to build a hospital where apart from advanced treatments, general healthcare needs were also attended to.
A Stellar Life
Marie Curie had lived a stellar life. Her accomplishments are unparallel, so was her contributions to various facets of larger public good. She was an inspiration, not just for women but for people in the field of science, education and public life. She has an asteroid named after her, ala 7000 Curie, she has a metro station in Paris named in her honor, a nuclear reactor is called ‘Maria’ to commemorate her and the radioactive element Curium was named to honor both Marie and her husband Pierre Curie. There are presently two museums, numerous fellowships and various institutes devoted to her. She also features on stamps, bills and coins.
She is the only woman to be buried in the Pantheon in France.