Not only was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, she is the first person and only woman to win twice, the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences, Also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.
Born in Warsaw, Poland was occupied by Russia and the Russian Tsar decided that women should not study at university, her parents, both teachers who believed strongly in education moved to Paris for her to continue her studies. There met Pierre Curie, who became both her husband and colleague in the field of radioactivity.
Her first Prize: The 1896 discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel inspired Marie and her husband to further investigate. They examined many substances and minerals for signs of radioactivity. They managed to extract two previously unknown elements, polonium, and radium, both more radioactive than uranium.
Radium hands from 1940-1950’s watches. (Photo licensed under Creative Commons, author: Mauswiesel, November 2011)
Her second Prize: After Marie and Pierre Curie first discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium, she produced radium as a pure metal and documented the properties of the radioactive elements and their compounds. Radioactive compounds became important as sources of radiation in both scientific experiments and in medicine, where they are used to treat tumors.
As a benefit to mankind radioactive, elements have atoms which emit different types of radiation. The high energy of the radiation destroys living cells and causes a burn. Lower doses can damage internal organs, cause anemia and increase the risk of cancer. The Curies discovered that radiation could also cure cancer and skin ulcers, and developed methods for treating cancer with radiation therapy. Their discovery also led to a greater understanding of how atoms are built up.
Today radium has very few uses since safer substances with radioactive properties are used, such as cobalt and cesium.