Madame Curie had one of the most difficult lives of any of the amazing scientists that ever lived.
Her mother died when she was just 10 years old. She was forced to leave her homeland because women were not allowed to attend college.
She lived in poverty during her college years, often barely surviving on bread and tea.
Her research was conducted in a rundown shack with little heat and a leaky roof. For several years, the work consisted of boiling and stirring large vats of a dirtlike ore.
The fumes gave her a case of pneumonia that laid her up for months and nearly killed her. Her husband died after just 11 years of marriage when he was run over by a horse-drawn carriage.
Radiation from the chemicals she studied was slowly poisoning her, but she did not know it. It eventually killed her.
Madame Curie was born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867. Russia ruled Poland at the time and was trying to eliminate Polish culture.
Even speaking the Polish language was against the law, but most parents taught their children their native language in secret. Curie’s parents were both teachers and placed a high value on education, but when Curie graduated high school at 15, she had few opportunities.
Curie spent the next eight years as a governess while her sister completed her medical studies in Paris.
In 1891, she went to Paris and became a science student at the Sorbonne. Within just four years, she earned graduate degrees in both physics and mathematics.
She also married the well-known French physicist Pierre Curie and changed her name to Marie.
The research she conducted to earn her doctorate made Marie Curie famous. Her scientific career basically consisted of the discovery of one element, but it was enough to immortalize her.
Marie Curie’s discoveries in the field of radioactivity earned her a Nobel Prize in science; her daughter Irene also won one, making them the only mother-daughter winners in Nobel history.
Marie Curie won two Nobel Prizes for her work, one for physics and one for chemistry.
She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win two.