Marie Curie - Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen

Bad Girls Throughout History: 100 Remarkable Women Who Changed the World - Ann Shen (2016)

Marie Curie

Polish physicist and chemist Marie Curie (1867-1934) was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and the first person to win it twice, in two different sciences. She started her studies in an underground “floating university” in Warsaw because Polish colleges were then men-only. Making her way to Paris, Curie earned master’s degrees in physics and mathematics from the Sorbonne, all while subsisting on buttered bread and tea and tutoring at night to pay her way through school. Curie stayed in Paris after she was rejected for work at Krakow University because she was a woman. There she met her perfect match in fellow physicist Frenchman Pierre Curie, and together they furthered her work in radioactivity (a term she coined) and discovered two new elements, named polonium (after her native land) and radium. In 1903, together they won their first Nobel Prize in physics.

Tragedy struck when her husband was killed by a horse-drawn wagon in 1906. Despite her grief, she took over his teaching position at the Sorbonne and became their first female professor. In 1911, at the age of forty-four, she won her second Nobel Prize, in chemistry. When World War I broke out, Curie established the first on-site radiology centers to help surgeons in the field. She founded two Curie Institutes, in Paris and in Warsaw, which are still major medical research labs today. Curie overcame many barriers in her community to achieve history-making success, and even then still stayed grounded—Albert Einstein was quoted as saying that she was probably the only person who could not be corrupted by fame.

First woman to win the noble prize-twice