Marie Sklodowska Curie


Marie Sklodowska Curie was born on the  7th of November 1867 and is the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is still the only woman to have received this honor twice. In 1903  she shared her first Nobel Prize in physics with her husband Pierre and her colleague Henri Becquerel for the discovery of Radium. She was honored with the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her discovery of Polonium, named after her homeland Poland, in 1911.

Marie was a devoted scientist and esteemed physicist.  She strongly promoted her and Roentgen’s discoveries in the medical field. The use of X-ray and radium as a treatment against cancer, as a way to sterilize equipment and wounds in war-zone hospitals or to image bomb shreds for surgical removal with mobile X-ray units are a couple of her exceptional accomplishments. Her strong engagement in the medical field provided the base for many subsequent discoveries and developments.

Timeline Timeline
Marie Curie
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Marie was born SEPARATOR as Maria Salomea Sklodowska in Warsaw on the 7th of November.


Marie Curie as tutor. SEPARATOR In a mutual agreement to financially support each other in their study plans, Marie would be the first to earn and send money to her sister. Marie became a tutor and governess in the household of a family for three years.


Marie started her studies in physics at the Sorbonne University. SEPARATOR The Russian University in Warsaw did not enroll women. Marie therefore travelled to Paris and went to the Sorbonne University for her education. In Paris she met Pierre Curie and started working with him.


Marie receives a student grant. SEPARATOR Marie was awarded the Aleksandrowicze grant for exceptionally high achieving Polish students abroad. This eased the difficult financial situation that Marie was exposed to during her student years.


Roentgen discovered X-rays. SEPARATOR Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered X-rays while examining cathode rays. He noticed the glowing on an aluminium sheet that was exposed to it. This was even the case when material was placed in between the source and the sheet. He concluded that something invisible must have caused that fluorescence and observed that it also affected photographic films. Those invisible rays he named X-rays. He then quickly realizes that the different capacity of X-ray to penetrate materials and tissues, muscle or bones, caused the appearance of his skeleton hand on the fluorescent screen.

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Marie and Pierre Curie got married. SEPARATOR Marie met Pierre in Paris while studying. Pierre was born in 1859 in Paris and was already a famous physicist for discovering piezoelectricity when they both met.


Marie's first daughter, Irene, was born. SEPARATOR She grew up to be a successful physicist herself.

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Bequerel discovered uranium properties. SEPARATOR Uranium appeared to emit “invisible” rays. Marie investigated this further and discovered radium, as it emits rays, radium in Latin, and polonium, named after her homeland. She coined the term radioactivity. No patent was sought for radium as she wanted it to “be freely available for all”.


First reports on cancer cure by radiation.SEPARATOR Tage Sjoergren from Sweden reported the first case of a malignant tumor of the skin to be cured by use of radioactive source application.


Marie defended her thesis and received her doctoral degree. SEPARATOR She is the first female recipient of a PhD in France. Her doctoral thesis has the title "research into radioactive substances".

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Marie receives the Nobel Prize for Physics. SEPARATOR The Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 was awarded to Marie Curie, Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel for the discovery of "spontaneous radioactivity" and "researches on the radiation phenomena". Initial intentions to omit Marie, failed due to the support of a prominent Stockholm mathematician, Mittag Leffler, who had supported woman scientists before and her husband Pierre who strongly declared to the committee that this had been a joint discovery.


Marie gives birth to her second daughter Eve. SEPARATOR Eve will take interest in literature and became a war correspondent of the New York and London press during World War II. She devotedly nursed her mother when Curie fell ill in her last years.


Pierre Curie killed in street accident in Paris. SEPARATOR Pierre died tragically in a street accident when he slipped on a rainy road. A harmonious marriage and a fruitful scientific collaboration ended. Marie was appointed to be his successor as Professor of Physics at Sorbonne. She was the first female Professor.

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The beginning of the Marie Curie Institute. SEPARATOR The Radium-Institute, now named the Curie-Institute, in Paris was founded in 1909 as a non-profit organization, dedicated to research on therapeutic uses of radiation. Marie Curie led a large team of researchers.


Marie was denied membership of French Academy of Science. SEPARATOR In the midst of a candidature for the French Academy of Science election, Marie is ostracized from Paris' society. Even though the academy recently voted to accept women as members, her provenance and personal relationships, propagated by an unfavorable press obstructed her candidature and election into the French Academy of Sciences.


Marie took part in the 1st International Solvay conference in Physics. SEPARATOR The committee gathered the most talented and skilled physicists at the time. Marie is the only woman of 24 invited participants, including Albert Einstein, Max Plank, Ernest Rutherford and Paul Langevin.

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Marie receives the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. SEPARATOR She received the price "in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element".

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The “petite (small) Curies”. SEPARATOR During World War I, Marie created and operated mobile X-ray units ("petites curies") to image and treat war soldiers. She also produced devices that used radium to sterilize wounds.


The American Women award Marie for her achievements. SEPARATOR Marie goes to the USA to receive a gift of 1g radium, presented by President Harding and paid for by American women. She donates radium from this gift for medical purposes during war times.


Marie Curie visits the “radium hospital”. SEPARATOR On her US trip, Marie visits the Memorial Hospital in New York to see the radium vault designed by Gioaccino Failla, a physicist that was trained by Marie Curie in Paris.


Marie joins the League of Nations. SEPARATOR Marie expressed her pacifistic views when attending the international Committee of Intellectual Collaboration organized by the League of Nations. She and Albert Einstein were good friends, frequently corresponding with him on the matter. Einstein about Marie: "she is the only person, who wasn't corrupted by fame" .


Curie Institute Warsaw created. SEPARATOR Funded by donations and thanks to her initiative and help, Curie's Radium Institute in Warsaw, an oncological institute, was created. The official inauguration at which Marie participated was in 1932.


The start of the radiotherapy profession. SEPARATOR From about 1930 on, fulltime radiotherapists were appointed. A radium commission was set up to optimize the use of radium for medical purposes and radium centers were set up. Leopold Freund, Neville Finzi, Goesta Forssell and Walter Levitt were instrumental in establishing the “medical radiotherapist” profession.


“Radiotherapy cures cancer” news begins to emerge. SEPARATOR First analyses and reports on cure rates after radiotherapy for patients. Many patients with “carcinoma of the cutis, labii, oris” and with “sarcomata”, as they were called back then, were cured.

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Marie Curies died at the age of 66. SEPARATOR In her last years, Marie suffered from anaplastic anemia, probably caused by long term exposure to radioactive material without protection. She was reported to have carried her radium around in her skirt pocket all the time, thereby exposing herself for most of her life.


Nobel Prize for Physics for Irene Joliot Curie. SEPARATOR Marie Curie's daughter Irene Joliot-Curie and her husband received the Nobel Prize for chemistry "in recognition for their synthesis of new radioactive elements", the discovery of artificial radiation.


ESTRO Cancer Foundation was founded. SEPARATOR The ECF (ESTRO Cancer Foundation) aims to raise awareness of the widespread benefits of radiotherapy.

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#150YearsMarieCurie Legacy Campaign by the ESTRO Cancer Foundation.