First female won the Nobel Prize | Eurasia Diary -

27 March, Wednesday

First female won the Nobel Prize

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Hailed as a 'celebrity scientist' in her lifetime, Marie Curie was the first female to win the Nobel Prize in 1903 – for her pioneering research on radioactivity – and the first person to win a second Nobel Prize.

As Marie Curie tops our poll, 100 Women Who Changed the World, we tell you everything you need to know about the scientist who paid the ultimate price for her discovery…

Born: 7 November 1867, Warsaw, Poland

Died: 4 July 1934, Passy, Haute-Savoie, France

Growing up in Warsaw in the 19th century, Marie displayed an interest in science from an early age. She excelled at boarding school and graduated with a gold medal from a gymnasium – a European form of grammar school – for girls in 1883. Despite not being allowed to attend the University of Warsaw owing to her sex, Marie continued her studies by attending classes at the ‘flying university’ – an underground education movement in Warsaw.

While undertaking her studies in 1894, Marie met Pierre Curie, a professor at the School of Physics and Chemistry. A year later, the couple were married.

c1899: Marie Curie and her husband, French chemist Pierre Curie hold hands with their daughter, Irene. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
c1899: Marie Curie and her husband, French chemist Pierre Curie hold hands with their daughter, Irene. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Inspired by German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen’s discovery of x-rays in 1895, and Henri Becquerel’s research into rays produced by uranium salts in 1896, Marie began her research into the properties in uranium. She examined whether these properties were found in other forms of matter.

In 1911, Marie was presented with her second Nobel Prize, this time in the field of chemistry for her work in isolating radium. To this day, Marie is the only person to receive two Nobel Prizes in different sciences.

Following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Marie developed a mobile x-ray unit that could be transported near to the frontline and allow her to analyse soldiers’ injuries. With her 17-year-old daughter, Irene, Marie worked at one of the casualty clearing stations, where they x-rayed men to detect bullets and shrapnel in their wounds, and monitor fractures. In 1914 the International Red Cross made Marie the head of the radiological service, where she helped to train doctors and medical assistants in the latest techniques.

After the war ended in 1918, Marie returned to her work as the head of a laboratory and in 1919 published her personal account of the war in her book Radiology in War.

Marie’s health began to deteriorate during the 1920s. After years of being exposed to radioactive materials and carrying test tubes of radium in her pockets, Marie died of aplastic anemia – a serious blood condition where the bone marrow does not create enough blood cells – on 4 July 1934 at the age of 66.

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