Life Story

Nov 7, 1867

Maria Sklodowska born to parents Bronsilawa Boguska (mother) and Wladyslaw Sklodowski (father).

Her mother worked as a teacher, pianist and singer.
Her father was a professor of Mathematics and Physics.

Warsaw, PolandWarsaw
Maria's sister Sofia dies from Typhus.
Maria's mother dies of turberculosis.
June 12, 1883
Graduates from high school, earning a gold medal for her academic excellence.
Oct 10, 1888
Having made an agreement with her sister Bronya, Bronya leaves home to study at the Sorbonne, University of Paris. The agreement was that Maria would fund Bronya's education and, when Bronya was earning enough, she would return the favour and fund Maria's.
Bronwyn and Marie Curie

Maria moves to Paris to study Mathematics and Physics at the Sorbonne, University of Paris. Here she listened to lectures by Paul Appel, Gabriel Lippmann and Edmund Bouty and met many physicists who were also famous at that time. including Aimé Cotton, Charles Maurain and Jean Perrin.

Maria changes her name to Marie (the French version of Maria).

Paris, FranceThe Sorbonne, Paris
Marie begins work in Gabriel Lippmann's research laboratory.
Gabriel Lippmann
She is introduced by a friend to Pierre Curie, who was already renowned for his work in crystallography and magnetism.
Pierre Curie
July 25, 1895
Marries Pierre Curie in a civil ceremony.
Marie and Pierre celebrate the birth of their first daughter, Irene.
Irene Curie

The "strange activity" properties of Uranium had only been discovered recently by Henri Becquerel. Marie, looking for a subject for her thesis, decided to investigate this property and see if any other elements had this property. She discovers that thorium also has some "activity".

Having obtained permission from the Austrian government, Marie and Pierre take around a ton of pitchblende (waste material from the uranium producing plant in Bohemia). Although this waste had had most of its uranium removed, it still retained the majority of its "activity". Marie concluded that there must be some other material within the pitchblende that also had this "activity".

Pierre joined with her in searching for this other material, leading to the discovery of the elements polonium (named after Marie's home land) and radium (named from the Latin word "radius" which means "ray").

Pierre tries an experiment with radium which involved him applying radium to an area of his skin. This caused a burn, and then a wound, leading to the conclusion that this "activity" affected organic life - eventually leading to the use of radium for treating tumours.

Marie, together with a pupil of Pierre, A Debierne, work to obtain a sample of pure, metallic radium.

Marie Curie in the lab

Maire and Pierre Curie in their Lab

Marie is appointed lecturer at the École normale supérieure for girls in Sévres.
Marie's father, Wladyslaw, dies from an excessive gall stone that hadn't been operated on.

Marie receives her Doctorate of Science for her work on researching this "activity" phenomenon.

Marie and Pierre receive the Davy Medal of the Royal Society.

Marie and Pierre, together with Henri Becquerel, receive the Nobel Peace Prize for Physics for their discovery of the phenomenon known as radioactivity.

Henri Becquerel

Marie and Pierre celebrate the birth of their second daughter, Eve.

Marie is appointed Chief Assistant in Pierre's laboratory.

April 19, 1906

Pierre is killed in a tragic accident with a horse-drawn wagon. He leaves behind a vacant professorship, which is filled by Marie.

Marie is now the first female lecturer in the Sorbonne.

Pierre Curie
She becomes titular professor in the Sorbonne.
Her fundamental treatise on radioactivity is published.

Marie receives a second Nobel Peace Prize - this time for Chemistry, for her work in isolating radium in its pure metallic form and for developing the first international standard for measuring radioactivity - the "Curie"

Marie becomes the first woman ever to receive two Nobel Peace Prizes.


This year marked the completion of the building of laboratories of the Radium Institute (institut du Radium) at the University of Paris.

The First World War begins and Marie works as an X-ray technician, working with mobile X-ray vans and training operators to use them to assist schrapnel removal in wounded soldiers.

X-Ray Vans
Marie trains doctors to use radium for the treatment of scar tissue, arthritis and other diseases, including some cancers.

Marie is invited to the USA to receive a gift from the US President, W G Harding in gratitude for her work in chemistry and physics.

The gift was a single gram of pure radium and had been bought as a result of donations from American women.

Marie and President Harding

Marie becomes the first woman to be elected to membership of the Academy of Medicine.

She begins work on researching the chemistry of radioactive medicines and the medical applications they may have.

July 4, 1934

Marie Curie, aged 66, dies of leukemia (aplastic pernicious anemia) due to the excessive amounts of radiation she had been exposed to whilst working with her materials.

On investigating her laboratory notebooks, traces of radioactivity are discovered in the fingerprints that are all over the pages. Her books are still radioactive to this very day.


Marie Curie

April 21, 1995
Marie and Pierre Curie's ashes are buried in the Panthéon. Marie is the first woman to be buried there for her own work.

Paris, France

The Pantheon, Paris

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