Marie Curie (1867-1934)

“Originally Maria Sklodowska. Polish-born French physical chemist. Born in Warsaw, she studied at the Sorbonne (from 1891). Seeking for radioactivity, recently discovered by Henri Becquerel in uranium, in other matter, she found it in thorium. In 1895 she married fellow physicist Pierre Curie (1859-1906). Together they discovered the elements polonium and radium, and they distinguished alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. For their work on radioactivity (a term she coined), the Curies shared a 1903 Nobel Prize with Becquerel. After Pierre’s death, Marie was appointed to his professorship and became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. In 1911 she won a Nobel Prize for discovering polonium and isolating pure radium, becoming the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. She died of leukemia caused by her long exposure to radioactivity. In 1995 she became the first woman whose own achievements earned her the honor of having her ashes enshrined in the Pantheon in Paris.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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