Marie Curie

Most Inspirational Scientist

One of the world’s greatest scientists, who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She won the Nobel Prize twice in two different fields of science.

World acclaimed Polish scientist, Madam Marie Curie was a woman of science. She was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize, but also the only woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in two different fields of science – physics and chemistry.

In 1898, Madam Curie with her husband Pierre, discovered two new chemical ‘polonium’ and ‘radium.’ Together the Curies were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903. In 1911, Madam Curie was awarded her second Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The discovery of the two new chemical elements – radium and polonium, allowed the Curies to carry out the first research into the treatment of cancer with radiation.

On 4 July, 1934, Madam Marie Curie died of aplastic anemia, believed to be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation. In 1995, Madam Curie became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits, in the Pantheon in Paris.

Name:   Marie  Curie
Born:   7 November 1867
Star Sign: Scorpio
Died:   4 July 1934
Birthplace: Warsaw
Country: Poland
DetailsOther Names
Maria Salomea Sklodowska, Manya
Władysław Skłodowski.
Bronisława, née Boguska
Pierre Curie (1859–1906) married 1895
Irène Joliot-Curie (1897–1956), Ève Curie (1904–2007)

Maria Curie was born, Maria Sklodowska on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland. Nicknamed, Manya, she was the fifth and youngest child of Bronisława, née Boguska, and Władysław Skłodowski. Maria's parents were educators and insisted that their four daughters be educated as well as their son. Because of her father's pro-Polish beliefs, the family struggled financially.

When Maria was nine years old, her eldest sibling died of typhus. Two years later, her mother died of tuberculosis. At aged 15, Marie graduated from high school as the top student, with a burning interest in science.

Flying University
At that time, Maria and her older sister, Bronisława, were unable to attend Warsaw University because of their gender. Undeterred, the two sisters continued their education in the Flying University, a secret pro Polish institution in defiance of Russian authority.

Later, both Marie and Bronisława decided to go to Sorbonne University in Paris, that accepted women, to earn an official degree. As finance was a problem, Maria would first support Bronisława with her medical study in Paris, then in return, Bronisława was to do the same for Maria. To support her sister, Maria worked as a tutor and governess for five years, all the while educating herself in physics, chemistry and mathematics.

Higher Education
After Bronislawa graduated as a doctor, Maria moved to France in 1891, and entered the The Sorbonne University in Paris. She changed her name to Marie, and studied physics, chemistry and mathematics. During the day, Marie studied and in the evening, she gave tuition. With little money, Marie often survived on just buttered bread and tea.

In 1893, Marie was awarded her Physics Degree, and the following year, her Mathematics Degree. She also received a grant for the Encouragement of National Industry to study the magnetic properties of different steels. For this research, Marie needed a laboratory.

Dynamic Scientific Duo
In arranging for lab space, Marie was introduced to Pierre Curie, a renowned chemist who was in charge of the laboratory at the school of Physics and Chemistry. Curie offered Marie a space in his laboratory. Their mutual passion for science brought them increasingly closer.

Eventually, Pierre proposed marriage to Marie, but she initially refused him. After some persistence, Marie finally accepted. In July 26, 1895, the two were married, and a dynamic scientific duo was formed. Two years later, they were blessed with a baby girl Irene. In 1904, their second daughter, Eve was born.

Discovery under Hardship
In 1896, Henri Becquerel’s discovery of uranium salts emitting rays, fascinated and inspired Marie, to taking his work a little further. Marie taught as financial was very limited, but still continuing her research, employing two uranium minerals, pitchblende and torbernite.

Intrigued by Marie's work, Pierre dropped his own research and began working with Marie. Their research was in an old converted shed, barely adequate laboratory facilities, and it was quite difficult, as Marie was also teaching to earn a livelihood.

Under much hardship, Marie and Pierre conducted studies to find additional substances that emitted radiation. While working on the mineral pitchblende, they discovered a new radioactive element, ‘polonium.' Later, they discovered the element, ‘radium.’ It was during this time that they coined the term, ‘radioactivity.'

The Curies intentionally refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process, so that the scientific community could do research unhindered. Their work in this era formed the basis for much of the subsequent research in nuclear physics and chemistry.

Recognition and Tribute to Pierre
In 1903, Pierre Curie, and Henri Becquerel were initially awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics as the committee did not include Marie Curie, as a Nobel Laureate. But Pierre insisted that the original research was Marie’s and she should be recognized. Tragically, in 1906, Pierre was killed by a horse-drawn vehicle as he fell under its wheels. Marie was devastated.

As a tribute to her husband, Marie succeeded him as professor of physics at the Sorbonne, becoming the first woman professor at the university. In 1911, Madam Curie, received her second Nobel Prize - in Chemistry. She set up, Radium Institute which aimed at conducting research in the field of chemistry, physics, and medicine.

World War I - Radiological vehicles
During World War I, Madam Curie set up radiology centre to assist military doctors in treating ailing soldiers. She directed the installation of twenty mobile radiological vehicles and another 200 radiological units at field. Over one million wounded soldiers were treated with her x-ray units. Post war, Madam Curie, penned a book titled, ‘Radiology in War’ which detailed account of her war time experiences.

In her later years, Madam Curie traveled to different countries to raise funds for research on radium. In 1922, she was appointed as a fellow of the French Academy of Medicine and also a member of the International Commission for Intellectual Cooperation of the League of Nations.

Final Chapter
In 1930, while Madam Curie was appointed as the member of the International Atomic Weights Committee, she was having medical problems. On July 4, 1934, Madam Curie died of a plastic anemia, a blood disease often caused by too much exposure to radiation.

This inspiration woman of science, is renowned not only for her groundbreaking Nobel Prize-winning discoveries, but also for boldly breaking many gender barriers during her lifetime. In 1944, the Curies received another honor - the discovery of the 96th element on the Periodic Table of the Elements, which was named 'curium.'

Marrage and Family
Madam Marie and Pierre Curie and had two daughters, Irene (1897) and Eve (1904). The Curie immediate family has been the recipient of five Nobel prizes. Not only did Marie Curie win two Nobel Prizes, her husband, Pierre Curie, won one. Her daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, won the Chemistry Prize in 1935 with her husband, Frédéric. Her youngest daughter, Ève Denise Curie Labouisse became a writer, journalist and pianist, and worked for UNICEF.

She did part-time work while completing her education.

Marie Curie proved that atoms were divisible. This disproved the ancient assumption that atoms were indivisible; and led to the creation of atomic physics.

The Curies coined the word 'radioactivity.'

Initially, the Nobel Prize Committee didn’t want the award to be given to Marie as she was a woman. Upon a complaint by Pierre, his wife’s name was added to the nomination.

Marie Curie is the only person to win Nobel Prizes in multiple sciences.

Marie and Pierre made their discovery, working out of 'leaky, drafty shack.' German chemist, Wilhelm Ostwald, said it was “a cross between a stable and a potato shed.” At first he thought it was a practical joke.

Madam Marie and Pierre said “Radium was not to enrich anyone.” After discovering Radium in 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie intentionally refrained from patenting the radium-isolation process, or profit from its production, despite the fact that they had barely enough money.

Marie personally provided Medical Aid to French Soldiers during the First World War.

Marie and Pierre had no idea of the dangers of Radioactivity.

To attain her scientific achievements, Maria had to overcome many barriers because she was a woman.

"Have no fear of perfection; you'll never reach it. Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood."

"Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas."

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

"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 must be attained."

"First principle: never to let one's self be beaten down by persons or by events."

"We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained."

"You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals."

"I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy."

"Each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity."

"The older one gets, the more one feels that the present must be enjoyed; it is a precious gift, comparable to a state of grace"


On 4 July, 1934, Madam Marie Curie passed away in Savoy, France, of plastic anaemia - a blood disease resulted from exposure to large amounts of radiation. This respected scientist, has become an icon in the scientific world and received tributes from across the globe.

She was interred at the cemetery in Sceaux, alongside her husband Pierre. In 1995, in honor of the Curies achievements, their remains were transferred to the Panthéon, Paris. Madam Curie became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.

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