Marie Curie (1867-1934) was a towering scientific intellect in a Victorian era when opportunities for women were few and far between.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, Curie was smart and curious and excelled in school. Unable to attend the mens-only University of Warsaw, Curie instead continued her education in Warsaw’s “floating university” - underground, informal classes held in secret.
For five years, Curie worked as a tutor and governess, while using her spare time to read about physics, chemistry and math. In 1891, Curie made her way to France where she enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris - completing her master’s degree in physics in 1893, and a degree in mathematics the following year.
Curie spent her time investigating radioactivity (a word she coined) and in 1898 discovered a new element she called polonium (after her native country of Poland). Later that year, she announced the discovery of a second element which she named radium.
Curie made history in 1903 when she became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize in physics for her work on radioactivity. In 1911, she won her second Nobel Prize - this time in chemistry - becoming the first scientist to win two Nobel Prizes.
All of her years working with radioactive materials took a toll on Curie's health - she died at the age of 66 of aplastic anemia which can be caused by prolonged exposure to radiation.
Marie Curie made many breakthroughs in her lifetime and is one of the most famous female scientists.
"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."
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