“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.”
- Marie Curie
Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) was a Polish-French physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity, who
• was the first person honoured with two Nobel Prizes, in physics and chemistry;
• shared her Nobel Prize in Physics (1903) with her husband Pierre Curie (her daughter Irene Joliot-Curie and son-in-law Frederic Joliot-Curie similarly shared a Nobel Prize);
• was the sole winner of the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry;
• was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize;
• is the only woman to win in two fields and the only person to win in multiple sciences;
• developed a theory of radioactivity, a term that she coined, developed techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes and discovered two elements, radium and polonium, the latter named after her beloved Poland.
She died in 1934 aged 66 from aplastic anemia contracted from exposure to radiation. The damaging effects of ionising radiation were not then known, and much of her work had been carried out in a shed, without proper safety measures. She had carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket and stored them in her desk drawer, remarking on the pretty blue-green light that the substances gave off in the dark. Because of their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. They are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.