Thursday, August 9, 2007

Marie Curie - Maria Sklodowska

Marie Curie has been for me an inspiration since I read her biography written by her second daughter Irene. Madame Curie - as French people respectfully call her - was born in 1867 in Poland and died in France in 1934. She was an exceptional physicist and chemist. She won two Nobel prices.
Madame Curie purified over two tons of a raw and dirty mineral named pitchblende to extract one gram of a new radioactive element she named radium. We often imagine scientists comfortably looking at a computer screen or at a microscope. Madame Curie worked inside a miserable garage in Paris - France. She was like a worker at a coal mine, breathing radioactive dusts that dangerously contaminated all her equipments and book notes even long after her death.
Madame Curie started the earliest MASH units during World War 1 - she drove a car equipped with portable radiography equipment - using her radium. Surgeons on the front used the radio images to operate wounded soldiers.
Madame Curie is immensely popular in France and in Poland - under her birth name, Maria Sklodowska. All her life she enjoyed working at her laboratory of chemistry - mentoring students and guiding them through delicate experiments. Marie and her husband Pierre both feared and hated public honours. Pierre once told Marie: "I was counting how many laboratories we could open with all the diamonds and jewels the people are wearing at this ceremony."

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