On November 7,
when we in
the 50th anniversary of the Great October
Socialist Revolution, it was also
exactly 100 years since the
birth of Marie Sklodowska-Curie, the outstanding Polish scientist whose
discoveries in physics and
chemistry began the era of the utilization of
man and woman walked home through the
dusk of an early Paris evening. They
for they were tired. For months they had
in a damp, rotting shed, which they called
their laboratory. For
much of this time the woman had stood stirring a
boiling mixture in an enormous pot with an iron rod that was almost as
long as she was
tall. Her husband had worked hard to measure the end products of the boiling with extremely
delicate instruments. The roof
of the shed leaked, and there was not
enough money to get it fixed.
But now the stirring was over, and so was the very
difficult job of crystallizing and isolating
quantities of precious substances obtained in this way. At last the couple, Marie
and Pierre Curie, had achieved their
goal.So, in spite of their fatigue, they felt excited and their walk passed quickly.
Marie went at once to their four-year-old
daughter Irene. Marie may have been
the greatest woman scientist
of her day, but she was a mother too and a very devoted one.
"Irene is asleep," she said to her husband a little
later. "Let's go there. I want to see It at night."
They always spoke of It in such a way as if it had a
capital letter. They went back to the shed. It seemed less
dark than it had been on other nights. Here and
there on the shelves there were tiny luminous spots,
Admiring these glowing spots, Pierre said: "At
last, Marie. We've waited for so long..." So
they stood that night, Marie and Pierre Curie, on
the threshold of a new world. They had discovered
radium, a new radioactive element that was to bring
about a revolution in physics.
1903 Marie Sklodowska-Curie presented her work on radioactivity as her
doctor's dissertation. It was cne of the most remarkable dissertations in history, for it won her not one, but two Nobel
Prizes! In 1903 she and
Pierre, together with Henri Becquerel, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics
for their studies of uranium
radiations. In 1911 Marie received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering polonium and radium.
The second prize went to her alone, for in 1906
Pierre had died tragically in a traffic accident. *
Marie lived to see her story repeated. Her daughter
Irene grew into a woman with the same interests as her
mother's. She helped to fill the gap left in her
mother's life by Pierre's death. From Marie she learned all
about radiology and chose science for her career. At twenty-nine she married
Frederic Joliot, a brilliant scientist
Institute of Radium, which her parents
had founded. Together the Joliot-Curies carried on the
research work that Irene's mother had begun. A dozen
years after their marriage, the Joliot-Curries won the
Nobel Prize for their discovery of artificial radioactivity.
Marie, alas, died on the eve of the award.
respect for the two generations of the Curies is
all the greater because of their moral courage. Marie and Pierre provided an
example of deep dedication to science. Marie, her daughter Irene, and
Irene's husband Frederic all died
from radiation sickness, the result of long years of work with
Frederic Joliot-Curie was not only an outstanding scientist, but also an outstanding leader of the
There is no parallel in the records of science to the
dynasty of the Curies. The combination of perfect professional
collaboration with love, domestic harmony, and
dedication to progressive ideals is an inspiration to countless future
generations of young scientists...