Irène Joliot-Currie

Mary Sklodowska was born on the 7th November of 1867 in Warsaw (Poland). She was the youngest in a family of 5 children. As a young girl, she dreamt of studying at the university. That dream came true at the age of 24. She travelled to Paris to obtain diplomas in chemistry, physics and maths at the Sorbonne. While in Paris, she met her future husband Pierre Curie. In 1897 and 1904, two daughters were born, Irène and Eve.

Marie Curie ©MuséeCurie(coll ACJC)

Pierre and Marie Curie both became researchers. They were the first to separate polonium and radium from uranium. For this scientific discovery, both received, together with Henri Becquerel, the Nobel Prize for physics in 1903. Unfortunately, Pierre Curie died in an accident in 1906. In honour of her late husband, Marie pursued her dream and got a professorship at the Sorbonne. She became the first female professor at the university.

A few years later, in 1911, she won her second Nobel Prize, this time for chemistry. At the beginning of the summer of 1914 she became principal of  ‘Pavillon Curie,’ a radium institute financed by the Sorbonne and Institute Pasteur.  A few weeks later,  the First World War broke out…

During WW1, Marie Curie developed mobile radiology units which were used at the front. Together with her 17-year old daughter Irène, she visited the Belgian front hospitals in Furnes, Hoogstade, Adinkerke, De Panne, Beveren and Roesbrugge. There she singlehandedly examined patients, both soldiers and civilians. She installed X-ray equipments and gave advice. The three mobile X-ray cars  she used at the Yser Front were nicknamed petites Curies or Little Curies.

After the war, Marie Curie returned to her radium institute in Paris. She died on the 4th of July 1934 at the age of 67 due to years of radiation exposure. Her daughter, Irène, continued her mother’s life work.

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