Marie Curie

an inspirational woman


"Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood."



Born Maria Sklodowska on 7 November 1867 in Warsaw, Poland, she was the youngest of five children of poor school teachers.

After her mother died and her father could no longer support her she became a governess, reading and studying in her own time to quench her thirst for knowledge. She never lost this passion.

To become a teacher – the only alternative which would allow her to be independent – was never a possibility because a lack of money prevented her from a formal higher education. However, when her sister offered her lodgings in Paris with a view to going to university, she grasped the opportunity and moved to France in 1891.

She immediately entered Sorbonne University in Paris where she read physics and mathematics – she had naturally discovered a love of the subjects through her insatiable appetite for learning.

It was in Paris, in 1894, that she met Pierre Curie – a scientist working in the city – and who she married a year later. It was also around this time that she adopted the French spelling of her name – Marie.

In 1903 Marie and Pierre were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics jointly with Henri Becquerel for their combined, though separate, work on radioactivity.

In the same year, Marie passed her doctorate thesis in Physics.

In 1906 Marie's life was struck by tragedy when Pierre was killed in a street accident after being knocked down by a horse and cart. Her indomitable spirit, however, kept her working and she went on to succeed him in his Chair as Professor at Sorbonne, as well as carrying on lecturing where he had left off.

On 4 July 1934, at the Sancellemoz Sanatorium in Passy, France at the age of 66, Marie Curie died of pernicious anaemia, a condition she developed after years of exposure to radiation through her work.

Her determination and remarkable endeavours led to a second Nobel Prize in 1911, this time in chemistry for creating a means of measuring radioactivity. Not long after, Sorbonne built the first radium institute with two laboratories; one for study of radioactivity under Marie Curie's direction, and the other for biological research into the treatment of cancer.