Marie

And Pierre Curie

Marie Sklodowska ( a.k.a.) was born in Warsaw in 1867. Her parents were teachers
who believed strongly in the importance of education. Marie had her first
lessons in physics and chemistry from her father. She had a brilliant aptitude
for study and a great thirst for knowledge; however, advanced study was not
possible for women in Poland. Marie dreamed of being able to study at the

Sorbonne in Paris, but this was beyond the means of her family. To solve the
problem, Marie and her elder sister, Bronya, came to an arrangement: Marie
should go to work as a governess and help her sister with the money she managed
to save so that Bronya could study medicine at the Sorbonne. When Bronya had
taken her degree she, in her turn, would contribute to the cost of Marie\'s
studies. So it was not until she was 24 that Marie came to Paris to study
mathematics and physics. Bronya was now married to a doctor of Polish origin,
and it was at Bronya\'s urgent invitation to come and live with them that Marie
took the step of leaving for Paris. By then she had been away from her studies
for six years, nor had she had any training in understanding French. But her
keen interest in studying and her joy at being at the Sorbonne with all its
opportunities helped her surmount all difficulties. To save herself a two-hour
journey, she rented a little attic in the Quartier Latin. There the cold was so
intense that at night she had to pile on everything she had in the way of
clothing so as to be able to sleep. But as compensation for all her privations
she had total freedom to be able to devote herself completely to her studies.

After two years, in 1893, she took her degree in physics, and in the following
year, in 1894, she came second in a degree in mathematics. After three years she
had brilliantly passed examinations in physics and mathematics. Her goal was to
take a teacher\'s diploma and then to return to Poland. There occurred an event
that was to be of decisive importance in her life. She met Pierre Curie. He was

35 years old, eight years older, and an internationally known physicist, but an
outsider in the French scientific community a serious idealist and dreamer whose
greatest wish was to be able to devote his life to scientific work. He was
completely indifferent to outward distinctions and a career. He earned a living
as the head of a laboratory at the School of Industrial Physics and Chemistry
where engineers were trained and he lived for his research into crystals and
into the magnetic properties of bodies at different temperatures. His father,
who was a physician, educated him with the help of a private teacher. Pierre
with help from his brother discovered piezoelectricity, which means that a
difference in electrical potential is seen when mechanical stresses are applied
on certain crystals, including quartz. Such crystals are now used in
microphones, electronic apparatus and clocks. Marie and Pierre discovered that
they had a fondness for each other. They married at the town hall at Sceaux,
where Pierre\'s parents lived. They were given money as a wedding present, the
invested it for some bikes. The two mostly study and often took bike rides to
relax. With persuasion by Marie and Pierre’s father, Pierre submitted his
doctoral thesis in 1895. It concerned "different types of magnetism, and
contained a presentation of the connection between temperature and magnetism
that is now known as Curie\'s Law". In 1896 Marie passed her teacher\'s diploma,
coming first in her group. Pierre and Marie had a daughter Irene who was born in

September 1987. Pierre had managed to arrange that Marie should be allowed to
work in the school\'s laboratory, and in 1897 she finished a number of
investigations into the magnetic properties of steel on behalf of an industrial
association. Deciding after a time to go on doing research, Marie looked around
for a subject for a doctoral thesis. Marie decided to make a systematic
investigation of the mysteries "uranium rays, after fellow colleague

Becquerel’s discovered that gases through which the rays pass become able to
conduct electricity. She had an excellent help at her disposal an electrometer
for the measurement of weak electrical currents, which was constructed by Pierre
and his brother, and was based on the piezoelectric effect. Just after a few
days Marie discovered that thorium gives off the same rays as uranium. Her
lasting systematic studies of the different chemical compounds gave the
surprising result