A woman among men

Marie Curie was the first woman to be awarded one of the greatly honored Nobel prizes. In 1903, she was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for her work on radioactive elements. Henri Becquerel, who discovered the radioactivity of these elements, was awarded half of the prize while Marie shared the other half with her husband, Pierre Curie.

Marie was originally from Poland and lived in Paris. She was among the top researchers in a field dominated by men. At the time, women were generally expected to do embroidery and stay at home. Marie, however, fought her way into research. The Nobel Prize was a personal victory for her as well – she had finally become recognized as a serious researcher.

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Portrett av Marie Curie med svart bakgrunn
Portrett av Marie Curie med svart bakgrunn

A unique performance

In 1911, Marie won another Nobel prize, this time in chemistry, for the isolation of pure radium in addition to the discovery of radium and polonium. 

To this day, she is the only person to ever receive two Nobel prizes in two different scientific fields. Marie was a genius who made significant  contributions to the future of science.

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Marie og Pierre Curie
Marie og Pierre Curie

A magical element

Marie discovered the chemical element radium with its very unique properties. She observed that radium emitted rays from its atomic nucleus. These emissions are called radioactivity. When this luminous element was still new and exciting, it was used in everything from toothpaste to wristwatches.

Gammel alarmklokke med radium

The usefulness of radium

These days, we know that radium radiation is dangerous for your health. However, if it is used correctly, it can save lives. One example is in the treatment of cancer.

Marie created mobile x-ray laboratories using cars. These were then used on the front in World War I. The x-ray pictures taken by these machines could show internal injuries in wounded soldiers. Marie’s radium was used for this, and Marie herself even participated in the work.

Marie Curie i en bil kalt røntgenlaboratorier på hjul
Marie Curie i en bil kalt røntgenlaboratorier på hjul

Personal issues

When Marie’s husband Pierre died in a traffic accident in 1906, Marie took over his job as a professor at the Sorbonne. Later on there was a scandal when it became known that she was having an affair with a married man, even though he had already separated from his wife. This kind of situation was unheard of in the early 1900s, and Marie was made ill by all the ugly rumors.

Portett av Pierre Curie

The greatest victim

Marie Curie became sick from all of the radiation she was exposed to from all of her work over the years. People did not know how dangerous radiation was back then. Marie Curie died of anemia when she was 67, most likely due to the radiation from her research on radium. You could say that she gave her life for her research.

Today, her notebooks must be stored in a lead box because they were and still are highly radioactive.

Illustrasjon av laboratorium til Marie og Pierre Curie
Illustrasjon av laboratorium til Marie og Pierre Curie

Marie Curie’s Legacy

Marie had two daughters. Irène followed in her mother’s footsteps, and in 1935 Irène and her husband Frédéric Joliot were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Her other, possibly lesser known daughter is Eve. She was a concert pianist, journalist, and author.

Marie Curie was a brave and pioneering woman who was passionately interested in research and communicating her knowledge to the world, thereby allowing it to be of use to all.

Marie Curie med hennes to døtre, Iréne og Eve Curie


  • Historiens største kvinner (2019)
    Orage forlag AS, 2019

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