Marie Curie, the scientist who coined the word radioactivity and won not one but two Nobel prizes, was born on this day 144 years ago. Google is celebrating with a Google doodle to honour the legendary scientist.
The only person ever to win a Nobel prize in two different sciences, Madame Curie is depicted on the Google home page working in the shed where she made so many discoveries.
A physicist and chemist, she came up with the name radioactivity to describe the phenomenon discovered by Henri Becquerel, and also developed mobile X-ray units -- called 'Little Curies' -- used during the First World War.
Marie Skłodowska Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland, on 7 November 1867. Her family had lost their fortune and she was initially unable to attend university, instead training in a lab and studying at the secret Flying University, an underground school that defied the ruling Russian authority. Breaking off her relationship with a gentleman whose family opposed their marriage, she studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her suitor, who became a maths professor, would as an old man sit in contemplation in front of her statue in Warsaw.
With her husband Pierre she discovered radium and polonium, earning them the Nobel prize for physics in 1903. Pierre was killed in a street accident in 1906; in her grief Curie continued with her work, becoming the first ever female professor at the Sorbonne and winning a second Nobel prize in 1911, this time for chemistry.
Their lab had never had protective measures in place and Curie had regularly carried radioactive isotopes around in her pocket, enjoying the way they glowed in the dark. Curie died of radiation exposure in 1934 from the years of working with radioactive materials. Her notebooks must now be kept in lead-lined boxes.
Marie and Pierre obviously passed on their scientific curiosity: their daughter Irène Joliot-Curie and her husband Frédéric Joliot-Curie also shared a Nobel prize.
Her legacy continues through Marie Curie Cancer Care, the
charity that bears her name. You can help fight cancer by visiting the
charity at mariecurie.org.uk.