Marie Curie

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Curie, Marie

 

(also Maria Skłodowska-Curie). Born Nov. 7, 1867, in Warsaw; died July 4, 1934, in Saint-Cellemoz, in the department of Haute-Savoie; buried in Sceaux, near Paris. Physicist and chemist. Pioneer in the field of radioactivity.

Polish by nationality, Curie was the daughter of a teacher. After graduating with a gold medal from a Gymnasium in Warsaw in 1883, she gave private lessons. In 1891 she was admitted to the University of Paris. After her graduation in 1895, she married Pierre Curie and began work in her husband’s laboratory at the municipal school of physics and chemistry. Here Curie did her early research, investigating the properties of magnetic metals. In 1903 she defended her doctoral dissertation, Investigation of Radioactive Substances. After her husband’s death in 1906, Curie was appointed to his chair at the University of Paris, becoming the university’s first woman professor. In 1914 she became director of the physics and chemistry division of the Radium Institute in Paris, which was founded at that time with her participation. F. Joliot-Curie and Marie’s daughter I. Joliot-Curie also worked at the institute.

The research on radioactive substances begun by Curie in 1897 laid the foundation for new branches of physics and chemistry. In July 1898, Marie and her husand discovered the chemical element polonium (named in honor of Marie’s native country), and in December of that year they discovered radium. In subsequent research they discovered the complex nature of radium emissions, studied the effect of the emissions of matter, and suggested methods of obtaining radium. In 1902, Marie obtained a decigram of pure radium salt, which enabled her to determine radium’s atomic weight, its physical and chemical properties, and its place in the periodic system of elements. In 1910, together with the French physicist A.-L. Debierne, she obtained pure radium in the metallic state and was thus able to make a second determination, this time with greater accuracy, of radium’s atomic weight. In 1911 she was the first to prepare a radium standard, which remained the world’s single standard for 24 years. Marie Curie also did research in radiology and roentgenology and in 1914 organized a roentgenographic examination of wounded soldiers. In 1922 she became the first woman member of the Paris Academy of Medicine.

Marie Curie won a Nobel Prize in 1903 in physics (jointly with P. Curie and A. Becquerel) and again in 1911 in chemistry. A member of many academies and learned societies throughout the world, she was a corresponding member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (1907) and an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1926). In 1903 she was designated honorary director of the Maria Skłodowska-Curie Radium Institute in Warsaw, which had been founded at her initiative.

WORKS

L’isotopie et les éléments isotopes. Paris, 1924. In Russian translation: Radioaktivnost’, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1960.
P’er Kiuri. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from French.)

REFERENCES

Cotton, E. Sem’ia Kiuri i radioaktivnost’. Moscow, 1964. (Translated from French.)
Curie, E. Mariia Kiuri, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1973. (Translated from French.)

I. D. ROZHANSKII

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