Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, one in Physics and the other in Chemistry.
Marie Curie, (née Maria Sklodowska) was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867, the daughter of a secondary-school teacher.
Her father gave her some scientific training and she then attended a secret academy, the “Flying University,” organized for young women who wanted to take college-level courses but were not permitted to attend the University of Warsaw.
The classes met in different locations to avoid the attention of the police.
Russia had invaded Poland in the 1790s and dominated much of Polish life.
In 1830, Marie’s grandfather had participated in an uprising against the Russians, and Marie followed in his footsteps.
She became involved in a students’ revolutionary organization, but soon found it prudent to leave Poland.
She worked as a governess to raise the money and in 1891, went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne, where she received advanced degrees in physics and mathematics.
At the Sorbonne, she met Pierre Curie, Professor in the School of Physics, fell in love, and in 1895 they were married.
They worked closely together, studying the radioactive elements in uranium, then recently discovered by Henri Becquerel.
As Marie described their poor working conditions: “We had not even a good laboratory at that time. We worked in a hangar where there were no improvements, no good chemical arrangements.
We had no help, no money. And because of that the work could not go on as it would have done under better conditions.”
Nonetheless, their work was highly productive. Marie would later succeed her husband as Head of the Physics Laboratory at the Sorbonne and then take his place as Professor of General Physics in the Faculty of Sciences.