Why She’s Amazing
Marie Curie didn’t want to be a princess. She wanted to be more.
Marie became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice and the only person to win twice in multiple sciences. She won her first Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and her second Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1911.
Marie didn’t stop there. She developed the theory of radioactivity along with techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes. Marie also discovered two elements, polonium (in honor of her native Poland) and radium.
- In addition to winning two Nobel Prizes, Curie was awarded the following honors:
- Davy Medal in 1903
- Matteucci Medal in 1904
- Actonian Prize in 1907
- Elliott Cresson Medal in 1909
- Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society in 1921
- Featured on the Soviet Postage Stamp in 1987
Marie’s scientific achievements are even more impressive given the barriers she had to overcome solely because she was a woman. According to Marie, “Life is not easy for any of us. We must have perseverance and, above all, confidence in ourselves.”
“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Curie
While Marie’s work helped to overturn established ideas in physics and chemistry, it had an equally profound effect on society as a whole. History looks to Marie as one of the first feminists due to her determination and ability to challenge and rise above societal norms.
A top student in her secondary school, Marie could not attend the men-only University of Warsaw. Instead, she continued her education in Warsaw’s “floating university,” a secret network of underground, informal classes.
Still, Marie was undaunted. She not only surmounted the men-only education obstacle, but she also founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw, which remain major centers of medical research today. In addition, she established the first military field radiological centers during World War I.
A True Inspiration
Marie was a strong woman whose courage spanned both gender and ethnic barriers. From spending all of her free time reading about math and science to taking science classes forbidden by Russian authorities to overcoming financial obstacles, Marie was seemingly undeterred.
Her legacy lives on in each and every female scientist that strives to make a new discovery. Marie’s tireless drive serves as a continual source of motivation for women to never stop discovering. As she once said, “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.”
- Initially, the Nobel Prize Committee didn’t want to give the award to Marie because she was a woman.
- Marie proved that atoms are divisible.
- Marie became the first female professor at the University of Paris.
- Due to a shortage of money, she occasionally fainted from hunger. She would rather not eat than take money out of her education savings.
- In 1995, Marie became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.