Marie Curie

(b. 1867-1934)

Marie Curie is one of the most famous scientists that ever lived. Her contributions such as the discovery of Radium and other key elements help us out every day, especially when getting an x-ray.

Manya,as she was called, was born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867. Maria was only eight when her oldest sister caught typhus and died. That death was followed less than three years later by the death of her mother, Madame Sklodowska, who lost a five-year battle with tuberculosis at the age of 42. The surviving family members, Professor Sklodowski, his son Joseph and his daughters Bronya, Hela, and Maria drew closer to one another.

Manya was the star student in her class. Her personal losses did not block her academic success. After graduating at the age of 15, Maria hoped to get an advanced degree, but while Joseph was able to enroll in the medical school at the University of Warsaw, women were not allowed to. In 1891, she attended Sorbonne and changed her name to Marie.  Marie realized that neither her math or science background nor her ability in technical French equaled that of her fellow students. Refusing to let go of her goals, she was determined to overcome these drawbacks through hard work. Marie finished first in her master's degree physics course in the summer of 1893 and second in math the following year. Having little money stood in the way of her math degree, but senior French scientists recognized her abilities and were able to help her by awarding a scholarship.

In Paris she met her future husband and collaborator, Pierre Curie. Pierre was Lab Chief for the Paris Municipal School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry. Marie and Pierre shared lab space. Pierre gave Marie a lab of her own. In Marie, Pierre found an equal with a comparable devotion to science. They would soon marry and have two daughters.

The Curies would work together and combine to receive the Nobel Prize in 1903 for their research with radium. The Curies published in detail all the processes they used to isolate radium, without patenting any of them. Radium was tightly linked with the Curies. Pierre's pioneering work on the effects of radium on living organisms showed it could damage tissue, and this discovery was put to use against cancer and other diseases.

Health and Financial concerns were not the only problems to plague the Curies as Marie wound up her thesis research. Hardship would soon follow Marie once again with her husband dying in an accident. Pierre's life ended tragically on April 19, 1906, when he slipped and fell in the street. His head was crushed under the wheel of a horse-drawn car. Marie took over his classes and continued her own research. It was the first time that a woman would hold an important university research position. She would work harder than ever and receive much prestige.  She won the Nobel Prize again in 1911.  

Rumors and gossip surround the award: many jealous scientists snipe that she has been awarded the Nobel Prize only out of pity, since her husband, Pierre, has recently died, while others alleged that she is "morally unfit" to receive the prize because of an affair with a married man, Paul Langevin, a long time family friend and a student of Pierre's. Paul was known as a sexist and a philanderer. When word of the affair reached the public, it nearly destroyed Marie's career and public standing in the scientific community. When the scandal broke, no one in the physics community supported Marie. Earlier in the year, the Swedish Academy informed Marie that she would again receive the Nobel Prize. When letters to Paul were published in a newspaper in Paris, the Academy told her that they did not want her to come to the public ceremony in Stockholm. Marie defied their wishes and went to the ceremony. Eventually, her honor and reputation were restored.

During World War I, Marie worked as an "X-ray technician," taught radiological technology, and equipped mobile X-ray vans to assist in the war effort. She became head of the Paris Institute of Radium in 1914 and helped found the Curie Institute. Her health deteriorated quickly but still she worked diligently. 

In 1934 at the age of 67, she died from leukemia, thought to have been from research. Marie would lead an exciting life receiving 15 gold medal awards, 19 degrees, and many other honors. Mary Curie has opened a lot of doors for the young women today.

Annotated Bibliography

Ashburn, Norma. "Her Life as a Media Compendium." The Warsaw Times: Marie Sklodowska Curie, 2000. (15 December 2005).
This talks about the life and times of Marie Curie and shows articles from the Warsaw Times.  

Coppes-Zatinga, Arty R. "Radium and Curie." Canadian Medical Association Journal. 159 (1998): 1389.   
This medical journal focuses on the one-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of Radium by Marie and Pierre Curie. It deals with the expression of news from the discovery by the amazing scientists. The medical journal then goes on to explaining Marie’s death due to radiation and the harmful effects it has.   

Curie, Eve. Madame Curie. Garden City, New Jersey: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1937. 
The author of this book is the youngest daughter of Marie Curie. She has written this book by using records and letters of her mothers. Her own personal experience also is used in the book. The text is easy to follow and the writing is very clear. Pictures in the book give it an inside look at Marie.  

D.B."X-rays, not radium, may have killed Curie." Nature 377 (1995): 96.   
This article deals with Marie’s fatal illness that brought her to her death. All signs of her dying are toward her experimentation with radiation. But they examine her work during World War I and her uses of X-rays. It is an interesting look at how they determine her cause of death. They author also speculates that the radiation is escaping from the dead corpses.

Moore, Victoria. "Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie: An Extraordinary Life of Breaking Boundaries." Breaking Boundaries. [under Poland go to "Famous Poles" page and link to Marie Sklodowska Curie]   (16 December 2005).   
This site gives a brief outline on Marie and her studies. It includes charts and diagrams relating to her scientific studies. 

Pasachoff , Naomi E. "Marie Curie and the Science of Radioactivity." Marie Curie Polish/French Physicist. 2000.  (15 December 2005).   
This site is very informative in that it gives the basic information about Marie and her discoveries.

Pasachoff, Naomi E. Marie Curie and the Science of Radioactivity. London, England: Oxford University, 1996.   
This book examines the life of the Polish-born scientist whom, with her husband Pierre, was awarded a 1903 Nobel Prize for discovering radium. This account of the life and work of the French chemist, Polish-born, provides an in-depth look at the person as well as the scientist whose work with radioactivity led to two Nobel Prizes. Brief but thorough insets throughout the book explain the science behind Curie's accomplishments. Historical photographs accompany the text.   

Pflaum, Rosalyn, Grand Obsession-Madame Curie and Her World. Bantam, Dell, Doubleday. New York. 1989.   
Marie Curie’s fascination with science was developed early on by her father. School only elevated her curiosity and led her to a life of discovery. This book displays her love for science and her husband Pierre. Pictures help to relay the information more clearly.   Poynter, Margaret, Marie Curie: Discoverer of Radium. Chicago, Illinois: Enslow Publishers, 1994.  In an easy-to-read format, the biography emphasizes Marie Curie's early life of poverty, desire to study, and contributions to the fields of chemistry, physics, and medicine. The science activities and the Periodic Table of Elements provided at the end of the book take away from the volume's biographical intent. Black-and-white photographs are included.     

Quinn, Susan, Marie Curie: A Life. New York, NY.: Perseus Publishing, 1996.   
This biography does an excellent job of explaining both the importance of Marie Curie's scientific work, and how she experienced life herself. The author Susan Quinn gives detailed descriptions of her studies in the science world. It also includes information drawn from previously unavailable letters that Curie wrote to Pierre, her husband, who unfortunately had an accidental death.    

Quinn, Susan. Family Element Washington, D.C.: The New Republic, April 10, 1995. 
 This book tells of the family influence on Marie Curie from her physicist father to her sister who held a doctorate degree. Gives a detailed description of her trials and tribulations. Maps and pictures help to set the stage for her story.     

Raynal, Florence. "A Nobel Prize Pioneer at the Panthéon." Science: Marie Curie, 1997.  (15 December 2005). 
This web site includes information on when Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize. It talks of her other accomplishments in the field of science.

Shearer Barbara S, ed., Notable Women in the Physical Sciences. Greenwood Press. London, Benjamin F.1997. 
This gives bibliographies of the many distinguished women in sciences that have made contributions to the world. Marie Curie’s chapter gives information on her discovery and it’s contribution to society. It looks at her to devotion to her work by explaining her death from radiation exposure. 

Winter, Mark. "Maria Sklodowska-Curie 1867-1934." Marie Curie, 1998. <> (16 December 2005).  
This is the only site that you would have to see in order to learn anything and everything about Marie. It has over 50 links to other sites about Marie. This is the best site on Marie.

Wolke, Robert L, "Marie Curie's doctoral thesis: prelude to a Nobel prize," Journal of Chemical Education 65, (1988): 561-73. 
This journal article is very informative to those who seek to go more in depth and look as Marie’s work. The author writes in an inspiring way about Marie’s hard work and determination to excel. He describes her doctoral thesis and talks about her being the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. 


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