Marie Curie

Marie Curie (1867-1934) was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the only woman to win two of them. She discovered two new elements—polonium and radium. She discovered that radium could kill diseased cells in the body, providing the foundation for later advances in treating cancer with radiation. During WWI, she dedicated herself to making the x-ray machine portable so that they could be carried in ambulances and made easily available to hospitals. She drove x-ray machines to the front lines to be used to locate shrapnel in soldiers’ bodies. By the end of WWI, over a million soldiers had been x-rayed. She was born in Poland and grew up the youngest of 5 children in a poor, but well educated family. She left Poland to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and finished first in her class with a degree in Physics. She became the first woman professor at the Sorbonne. She said, “Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” She died in 1934 from leukemia, caused by her extensive work with radiation. Her daughter also became a Nobel Prize winning scientist.

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