Marie Curie: What to know about the first woman to win Nobel Prize


Marie Skłodowska Curie pursued scientific knowledge and achievement with an obsessive passion, dragging the world into the future as she continued to break barriers for women — even after death.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867, Marie had few opportunities to excel: Her mother died while she was young, her father had lost his life savings on poor investments and opportunities for women were scarce.

Marie took to academia, earning rewards for a number of subjects in school, but it was math and physics — the subjects her father taught — that most captured her attention and imagination.

Poor as the family was, Marie and her sister, Bronisława, made a deal: Marie would fund her sister’s premedical education, and eventually the favor would be returned.

Marie Curie (1867-1934), French physicist, at the time of her Nobel prize of chemistry, 1903. (Boyer/Roger Viollet via Getty Images)

Marie Curie (1867-1934), French physicist, at the time of her Nobel prize of chemistry, 1903. (Boyer/Roger Viollet via Getty Images)

For the discovery, Marie Curie won the first Nobel Prize for Physics and thus became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

When her husband died in 1906, Marie Curie devoted her life to finishing the work they had started together. She even took over his professorship, which made her the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne.

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Curie would publish a new paper on radioactivity in 1910, which led to her second Nobel Prize, this time a solo award in Chemistry. To this day, Marie Curie is one of only six people to win more than one prize, and the only woman to do so.

Portrait of Pierre and Marie Curie in laboratory. Undated photograph.

Portrait of Pierre and Marie Curie in laboratory. Undated photograph.

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