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Marie Curie (1867-1934) was born in Poland as Manya Sklodowska and is famous for her work on radioactivity. In fact, she and her husband, Pierre, first coined that word. She won the Nobel prize twice, first in 1903 (jointly with her husband, and with Henri Becquerel) for the discovery of radium and polonium, and again (by herself) in 1911 for the isolation of pure radium.

Perhaps the most famous of all women scientists, Maria Sklodowska-Curie is notable for her many firsts:

  • She was the first to use the term radioactivity for this phenomenon.
  • She was the first woman in Europe to receive her doctorate of science.
  • In 1903, she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize for Physics. The award, jointly awarded to Curie, her husband Pierre, and Henri Becquerel, was for the discovery of radioactivity.
  • She was also the first female lecturer, professor and head of Laboratory at the Sorbonne University in Paris (1906).
  • In 1911, she won an unprecedented second Nobel Prize (this time in chemistry) for her discovery and isolation of pure radium and radium components.
  • She was the first person ever to receive two Nobel Prizes.
  • She was the first mother-Nobel Prize Laureate of daughter-Nobel Prize Laureate.
  • Her oldest daughter Irene Joliot-Curie also won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry (1935).
  • She is the first woman which has been laid to rest under the famous dome of the Pantheon in Paris for her own merits.
  • She received 15 gold medals, 19 degrees, and other honors.

Madame Curie ultimately died from leukemia thought to be an effect of her experiments with radiation. Despite receiving two Nobel Prizes, Madame Curie was never admitted to the French Academie des Sciences.

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.”

“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”

“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”