10 Things You Might Not Know About Marie Curie

Marie Curie

1. Marie attended Warsaw’s “floating” or “flying” university where classes were held underground in secret since women were not allowed at the University of Warsaw.

2. While earning her degree in Paris, Curie lived frugally and ate mostly buttered bread and tea—a diet that often caused her to faint from hunger.

3. Curie met her husband Pierre while looking for a larger laboratory space. They started to work together and were married in 1895.

4. The relatively informal dark blue outfit Marie wore at her wedding served as her lab outfit for many years.

5. Curie coined the term “radioactivity” while studying uranium waves; she and Pierre named a newly discovered element “Polonium” after Marie’s home country, Poland.

6. When Pierre was killed by a horse-drawn wagon in 1906, Marie took over his job as a professor at the Sorbonne University, making history as the institution’s first female professor.

7. She was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes—physics (1903) and chemistry (1911).

8. In 1911, a scandal broke out when Curie was suspected of having an affair with one of Pierre’s (married) former students. She was portrayed in the press as a foreign homewrecker and had to seek shelter from an angry mob outside her home.

9. Curie died at 67 of aplastic anemia caused by her extensive exposure to radioactive material (she was known to have carried tubes of radium in her lab coat pockets).

10. Curie’s papers are now considered too dangerous to handle and are kept in lead-lined boxes.

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