Marie Curie 1 Running head: Marie Curie

Marie Curie and Devotional Life Tran Pham Physic 1010 1/28/2014 Salt Lake Community College

Marie Curie 2 Marie Curie and Devotional Life “All my life through, the new sights of nature made me rejoice like a child” said Marie Curie, one of the most well-known female scientists in the world. With the intelligence, talent and passion, she devoted all her life for natural sciences, specifically in chemistry and physic. Admired by people all around the world, she won two Nobel prizes in two different fields. Especially the theory of radioactivity and her related studies are considered to be the most significant achievement in modern physics. Today many scientists have applied radioactivity in many industries and continued to discover the characteristics as well as its application. Born with the name Maria Sklodowska on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland, she was the youngest child in family. Both her parents were teachers; her father was math and physic instructor. That was the reason why she was fascinated with sciences; she wanted to grow up and be just like her father. Growing up without the love of her mother (she died of tuberculosis when Curie was 11), Curie was an excellent student at school. The men-only University of Warsaw prevented Curie and her sister Bronva to achieve a higher education in Warsaw; therefore they had to join the “floating university” in secret. However, they realized that the only way to get professional education was studying abroad. Because of financial difficulty, Curie made a deal with her sister; she would work and support Bronva while she was studying in Paris in exchange for similar assistance when her sister completed her studies. She was hired as a governess in Szczuki and then she came back to Warsaw in 1889. At that time, her father earned better salary and he was able to support Bronva in Paris each month. Curie spent another two years being a tutor and a governess while continued to study chemistry secretly in an illegal lab for training Polish scientists. In 1891, she finally got her way to Sorbonne, a reputational university in Paris. She completed her Master’s degree in physics in 1893 and earned her mathematics degree in the

Marie Curie 3 following year. She was signed a contract to study on different types of steel with the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry. Because she needed a lab to conduct experiments, her colleague introduced to a French physicist, Pierre Curie, the owner of a laboratory. They fell in love and got married in July1895 (The Biography Channel). While Marie Curie was looking for a suitable topic for her doctoral thesis, she found interest in two mysterious discoveries. On November 8 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen, a French physicist discovered X-rays which could go through human body. However, there was another French physicist named Henri Becquerel who didn’t find X-rays until he experimented on samples of uranium salt, phosphorescent substances. Uranium produced X-rays immediately but weaker. While scientists were astonished by the great discovery of Roentgen and mostly ignored Becquerel’s rays, Marie Curie went against the flow. She and her husband were curious about that substances and decided to spend time doing research on it. However, in order to conduct experiments, they needed a suitable laboratory. Marie was given a chance to use the glass-in room which looked like a storeroom than a lab for free. But the condition of the lab was poor, humid and damp which was not suitable to store the scientific equipment. Not to mention the fact that it affected Curie’s health in the long run (Ogilvie, 2004). Curie made an observation on the element of uranium. She concluded "the uranium shows no appreciable change of state, no visible chemical transformation; it remains, in appearance at least, the same as ever, the source of the energy it discharges remains undetectable” (as cited in Jardin, 2011) leading to her hypothesis that the rays emitted are the property of uranium atoms and it was considered as a shocking statement because Curie's hypothesis would revise the scientific understanding of matter which means atom are not necessary stable and could be divided. She continued to measure the intensity of uranium rays by using the invention Pierre

Marie Curie 4 Curie and his brother made, the electrometer. The device was precise enough to allow her to measure extremely low electricity in the air near mineral samples containing uranium. The same thing happened when she conducted experiments on thorium. The radiation emitted by the mineral samples are greater than what she expected leading to the fact that "there must be, I thought, some unknown substance, very active, in these minerals" (as cited in Jardin, 2011). By applying the chemical procedures, she was able to separate that mysterious sample. Identifying one of the substances, she named it “polonium”, after her homeland Poland in 1989. Five months later, the second element “radium” was defined. The word "radio-active" was then released by the discovery of these two new elements. Pierre also proved that radium could badly damage living flesh. At this time, the health condition of both Marie Curie and Pierre Curie were bad due to the exposure of high dose of radiation and poor lab condition. However, they still contributed to scientific and teaching work. Marie Curies became the first woman who received a Doctorate in France 1903. Happiness came to them when The Curie shared the Nobel Prize in physics with Becquerel in the same year. However, happiness didn’t last long when Pierre Curie was run over by a heavy horse-drawn wagon in 1906. Despite the shock and grief, she went back to work right after the funeral day. She was offered to take up Pierre’s position in the Sorbonne. Not only she was busy with work but also she was buried by taking care of her two kids. The Radium Institute was established as the way to memorize the contribution of Pierre as well as the way to generate another purpose of radioactivity which is for medical application. The second time in her life, in 1911, Marie Curie was named in the honor of the Nobel award in chemistry for the discovery of polonium and radium. There was a time that she suffered from stress because of bad rumors and renal disease. But nothing could prevent her from the passion of science, she came back to work in 1912. In august 1914, Germany invaded France. Scientific researchers had to halt during the

Marie Curie 5 World War I; however, Curie contributed to country in her own way. She was aware that doctors could use X-rays to help diagnosing soldiers’ health problem. It could detect the bullet inside the body or identify which part of the bone was broken. Therefore, she planned to have X-ray machines for the doctors near the Front. With the earnestly, Curie talked to wealthy people to encourage them to donate their cars and money to assemble a fleet of 20 mobile X-ray stations as well as 200 stationary stations. Meanwhile, Curie had an idea of another possible way to save soldiers’ live which was using radioactivity. Inserting the tube containing the radioactive gas she got from the Radium Institute to the wound, she was able to eliminate diseased tissues. The Xray technique she applied to help soldiers are widely used in medical treatments nowadays, especially, to remove or inactivate cancer cells. After war, she came back to work with the aim of raising money for Radium Institute. By the end of 1920, Curie again suffered from medical problems. On July 4 1934, the scientific community expressed the deep grief when Marie Curie passed away by aplastic anemia (American Institute of Physics). Albert Einstein who is a famous scientist, a friend and a colleague of Marie Curie said “Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the only one whom fame has not corrupted”. Yes, she has passed away but her contribution could never have been rejected. Instead, the entire human race is relying on her discovery to take a bigger step to conquer natural science.

Marie Curie 6 References Albert Einstein quotes. (n.d). Retrieved January 23, 2014, from Jardins, D. (2011). The passion of Madame Curie: her profound dedication to science led to a new view of matter itself--and often made it difficult for outsiders to understand her. (Marie Curie)(Biography). Smithsonian, (6). 82. Marie Curie. (2014). The Biography Channel website. Retrieved 09:34, Jan 23, 2014, from Marie Curie and the Science of Radioactivity. The American Institute of Physics website. Retrieved 7:48, Jan 23, 2014, from Marie Curie quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2014, from Ogilvie, M. (2004). Marie Curie : A Biography. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.