Marie Curie, a Science Idol
September 27, 2011 1 Comment
The Smithsonian has an article about the glory that is Marie Curie, since this year is the 100-year anniversary of her 2nd Nobel prize. Marie Curie is a crazy figure in science history – I can’t even imagine how intelligent and driven she must have been. I managed to visit her tomb in Paris a few years ago and it was certainly the most important such visit for me while I was there, writers and philosophers be damned.
Marie Curie discovered polonium (guess her nationality) and radium, she discovered radioactivity, she was the first person to ever win two Nobel prizes, the only person to ever win in two different sciences (physics and chemistry) – and she did it as a woman at the turn of the 20th century, without fancy things like a research position or funding, and all before she hit 45. She was also the first woman to win a Nobel prize, naturally. From the article:
In 1903, Curie became the first woman in France to earn a PhD in physics. Professors who reviewed her doctoral thesis, which was about radiation, declared that it was the greatest single contribution to science ever written.
She kept researching up until her death – which probably would’ve been later if she hadn’t been researching radioactivity, before they knew about the whole it-kills-you thing.
Oh, and just for fun, her daughter and son-in-law won a Nobel prize in chemistry too, while her other son-in-law was the director of UNICEF when UNICEF was given a Nobel peace prize. If we’re going to get into Nobel-by-marriage, I may as well mention that she shared her first Nobel prize with her husband. That family had more Nobel prizes than a normal family has toothbrushes.
Reading about people like Marie Curie, I can’t help but feel like, “Well… that’s definitely not me. I guess I can cross ‘famous scientist’ off my list of things I can be when I grow up.” But I guess people like her need people like me to make some itty bitty discoveries beforehand, so I’ll try to do my part.
Edit: I later learned about the other son-in-law’s Nobel, so I added that above.