Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Woman of the Week - Marie Curie

I decided to go back in time a little bit to choose my woman of the week. I chose Marie Curie because she is the only woman who has won a Nobel Prize in two fields: physics and chemistry. She was born in 1867 and died in 1934. Curie was definitely ahead of her time, and she has been called a feminist pioneer. She had to struggle to be taken seriously as a female scientist. In 1894, after earning a degree in mathematics, she was denied a place at the Krakow University because she was a woman. Many scientists did not believe that a woman was capable of accomplishing anything in the field of science. Obviously, those scientists were mistaken.

Marie Curie is famous for discovering the elements polonium and radium. She received her first Nobel Prize in 1903 in physics. Then she received her second Nobel Prize in 1911 in chemistry. Curie was also the first woman professor at the Sorbonne. She helped develop x-ray equipment that treated over one million wounded soldiers during World War I. She also tried to donate her gold Nobel Prize medals to the war effort. I was extremely touched that she tried to donate her medals. Officials refused to accept them, but I think it's wonderful that she was willing to give up her medals to help the war effort.

Throughout her life, Marie Curie was exposed to radiation because of her research. She died in 1934 from aplastic anemia caused by years of exposure to radiation. Curie literally lived and died for her work. She was an inspiration to many people. In 2009, she was voted the "most inspirational woman in science" by a poll in New Scientist. She has also appeared on stamps and coins, and she was on the last 500-franc note. I always love hearing about women who were ahead of their time in terms of the feminist movement. Marie Curie pursued her passion, and because of her brilliance, she was able to make important discoveries in the scientific community. She is a role model to so many people, and I’m grateful for brave women like Marie Curie!

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