Images and information from Lauren Redniss’ book, “Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout” (2010).
We pick up the story in 1897. Marie had moved to Paris in 1891, at the age of 24, to pursue higher degrees in the sciences. She met Pierre Currie while working in Gabriel Lippmann’s lab (Pierre, at this point, had already discovered the connection between heat and magnetism that today is known as the Curie Point). Marie and Pierre were married on July 26, 1895 and two years later she had her first child, a girl named Irene.
Marie established that radioactivity was an atomic property, and was able to use it as a tool to search for new elements. The Curies managed to identify a distinct and previously unknown radioactive element within the pitchblende. Marie named it “polonium” in honor of her native Poland. The discovery of a second unknown ingredient came in December 1899. This time they called their new element “radium,” from the Latin word for ray. Much was to come from this…
Marie, on the other hand, could be considered the mother of radioactivity, thanks to her fascination with the energy suspended in the atoms she was studying.
After four years of steady labor, Marie and Pierre Curie managed to extract a tenth of a gram of radium chloride on March 28, 1902.
MARIE: “I shall never be able to express the joy of the untroubled quietness of this atmosphere of research and the excitement of actual progress.”
She sure left a glowing legacy behind.