orig. Maria Skłodowska
(born Nov. 7, 1867, Warsaw, Pol., Russian Empire—died July 4, 1934, near Sallanches, France) Polish-born French physical chemist. She studied at the Sorbonne (from 1891). Seeking the presence of radioactivity
—recently discovered by Henri Becquerel
in uranium—in other matter, she found it in thorium. In 1895 she married fellow physicist Pierre Curie (1859–1906). Together they discovered the elements polonium (which Marie named after her native Poland) and radium
, and they distinguished alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. For their work on radioactivity (a term she coined), the Curies shared the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics with Becquerel. Marie thus became the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize. After Pierre's death, Marie was appointed to his professorship and became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. In 1911 she won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering polonium and isolating pure radium, becoming the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. She died of leukemia caused by her long exposure to radioactivity. In 1995 she became the first woman whose own achievements earned her the honour of having her ashes enshrined in the Pantheon in Paris. Seealso Frédéric Joliot-Curie
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.