Marie Curie.

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In one street in Warsaw, there is a little house with big windows and a balcony. Beside the door below the balcony there is a plaque, which bears an inscription. This inscription in Polish announces that there, on the 7th of November 1867, Marie Sklodowska was born. Now you probably wonder what this name has for value to this story. Well, the full name on this woman is actually Marie Sklodowska – Curie, and in my opinion, she’s one of the history’s most extraordinary women through time. Now I intend to give you a short glimpse into her life, which is well-worth retelling.

As I’ve already written, Marie Curie came from Poland. She was known to her family as Manya, and she was the youngest of five children. Three of them were girls; Sofia, Bronya and Hela. She had also a four year elder brother named Joseph.
Marie’s mother was a principal and ran a private school in Warsaw. She got ill of tuberculosis and died when Marie only had reached the age of ten. Her father was named Wladislaw Sklodowski and was professor of physics and mathematics at a high school in Warsaw. He was a very intelligent person and he spoke Polish and Russian as well as French, German, Greek and Latin.

As a six years old girl, Marie suffered losses. Her sisters, Bronya and Sofia caught the Typhus fever. Bronya slowly grew better, but Sofia never recovered. In the short space of time of two years, Marie had lost two important members of the family. She buried herself in schoolwork to try and get over the pain.

At this time, the later part of the 1870’s, Poland was split and ruled by Austria, Prussia and Russia. Warsaw, now the capital of Poland where Marie lived, stood under the rule of the Russians and the Russian emperor, Alexander II. The polish people plotted to overthrow him and become independent again, but each time the rebellions were deported from the country and never returned, and the leaders were executed.
The Russians did their best to destroy the polish language, religion and history by banning all teachers and people to teach and speak in polish.
The consequences of that for Marie became several, of course, but she still learned a lot as her father translated books from English or French, even as he went along. That was how she heard “David Copperfield” by Charles Dickens for the very first time.

In 1883, when Marie was fifteen years old, she emerged from secondary school with a gold medal to testify her success. She was the cleverest in her class, but she still couldn’t move on to higher education – because she was a woman. Women in Poland weren’t taught the subjects needed to enter the universities, and so these were barred to them.

Marie was totally worn out as she left secondary school. Her father saw how depressed and exasperated his daughter was, and sent her off to calm down on the countryside for a year. Whenever Marie felt that way again, she returned to the countryside in her mind and so managed to find the strength to go on.

Now she and Bronya came up with the great plan of theirs. Neither of them had enough money to leave Poland and reach Paris, where the only university where women were allowed to study lay, on their own. So they decided to together to collect so much money they could so they would be able to afford to send Bronya off. Then she would pay for getting Marie to Paris after she’d educated and become a doctor.
Marie spent many years working far from home and teaching, so she would be able to go to Paris. It took her several years more than that would have been necessary, if she had had the money from the start or been able to study in Poland.

At last, at the beginning of the year 1890, at the age of 24, she was finally on her way to Paris. Paris was freedom! People spoke their own language, read whatever books they wanted, discussed newspapers in the cafés and hurried along to their work. Marie had access to the libraries and she had a place of her own in the laboratory. Paris swept away all the long and bitter years and showed her nothing but the future.

But as she entered the classes, she got slightly a shock. At home her French had been quite fluently; at least so good that she had been able to read a lot and widely in the language. Now she almost didn’t get a word; it was spoken rapidly by real Frenchmen, and that was a whole other story. And even though she had tried to learn some on her own, she was still years behind other students who entered these courses. It was now Marie realised that the long and bitter years of fighting to get to Paris had taught her something; not to be defeated. She put all her energy in her studies, remaining reading to late night. She lived on almost nothing and her most precious thing except her books and small apartment was her candles. They allowed her to read long after sunset had set.

Now she was about to take her first exam. In July 1893 she was 25, and she had been in Paris for eighteen months. When the results were announced, Marie was the top student!
She had managed to learn physics and French at the same time, and got ahead of all the other students. Her money problems disappeared, as she was awarded a scholarship from Poland for students who wished to study abroad. She took another exam, this time in mathematics, and emerged from that one with distinction, finishing as the second best.

That year of 1894, she met Pierre Curie for the very first time. They shared the same curiosity of science and the same love for physics. Pierre got fascinated of her and one year later, they married. Marie had two children with him, Irene and Evelyn. Marie and Pierre started the fabulous cooperation that was going to result in the discovery of radioactivity, radium and radon.

Marie spent 34 years in close contact to radiation and radioactive substances, without protecting herself properly. She and Pierre made discoveries of great value to mankind; they made it possible to cure cancer. They were awarded the Nobel prize of physics together and Marie also received it in chemistry of her own; she was the first woman ever to receive it and the only one who has received it twice. In our days I think there’s only one other woman who has been awarded the Nobel prize on her own; Marie Curie was truly one of a kind.
But fame and knowledge had its prize; Marie died from the radiation she had exposed herself of for too long. She had all the symptoms that the radiation was no good for her, but how could the doctors at the time know about them? After such a recent discovery of the radiation itself?

Pierre died long before Marie in a traffic accident and twenty years after Marie’s death, her daughter Irene and her ...

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  • Inactive member 2007-11-21

    bra uppsats !


Inactive member [2005-09-12]   Marie Curie.
Mimers Brunn [Online]. [2021-01-18]

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