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The 90th Anniversary Of The Death Of Marie Curie

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Authored by Alice Broome
Published on 4th July, 2024 2 min read

The 90th Anniversary Of The Death Of Marie Curie

Today (04/07/2024) marks 90 years since the death of Marie Curie. Born in Warsaw in 1867, she went on to become one of the most influential scientists of all time. During the later 1800s, universities rarely admitted women—most of them forbade it. This led Curie to enrol at the Flying University in Warsaw. A patriotic institution, it shunned the ideology of the Russian Empire, which Poland was then part of, by teaching students traditional Polish scholarship. Following her undergraduate studies, Curie left for Paris with her sister, Bronisława Dłuska. Marie took up the study of chemistry, mathematics, and physics at the University of Paris. It was there that she met her future husband, Pierre Curie.

Marie conducted extensive research into radiation, hypothesising that it came from the atom itself, rather than as a result of a reaction between different molecules. Pierre and Marie began researching together. This led them to discover the elements polonium and radium. They also coined the term radioactivity. In the space of four years (1898–1902), the Curies published a total of 32 papers. One very influential paper described how radium destroyed tumour-forming cells faster than healthy ones.

In 1903, Marie Curie became the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize. Alongside her husband and Henri Becquerel, she received the Nobel Prize in Physics in recognition of the trio’s research into radiation. Following her husband’s death in 1906, she became the first female professor at the University of Paris, as the physics department offered her the chair that had been established for him. Her research success continued and in 1911 she was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. This was due to her earlier discovery of radium and polonium, her success in isolating radium, and her study of the nature and compounds of this element. This made her the first person to win or to share two Nobel Prizes. To this day, only Marie Curie and Linus Pauling have been awarded Nobel Prizes in two fields.

On 4 July 1934, aged 66, Marie Curie died from aplastic pernicious anaemia. She developed this condition from her years of working with radioactive material without the necessary protection.  

Authored by Alice Broome

Alice Broome

Alice Broome is an Editor at British Online Archives. She is a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics graduate from the University of York.

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The British Online Archives Notable Days diary is a platform intended to mark key dates and events throughout the year. The posts draw attention to historical events and figures, as well as recurring cultural traditions and international awareness days, in both religious and secular contexts.

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