Madame Curie, who would be 144 years-old today, left more than a scientific legacy; she left behind radioactive papers, furniture and books. Curie and husband Pierre Curie, known for their work in uranium, radiation, and atomic studies; have left behind articles that still contain the fruits of their labor.
Most of the items on display at the Marie Curie collection at France’s Bibliotheque National, are contained in lead lined boxes. The century old papers and personal effects of the Curies are protected, not for their sake, but those of the handler. One can only open a leaded box containing her most extensive manuscripts, if the don protective clothing, gloves and sign a waiver of liability.
In 1903, Marie and Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel won the Nobel Prize in Physics for “extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel.”
Madame Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize. In 1911, she received a second Nobel Prize for Chemistry, “in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element.”
Curie is the first person to win two Nobel Prizes and one of two persons to be awarded two Nobel Prizes in differing categories. Linus Pauling won the Nobel Prize for chemistry and peace.
Honoring Marie Curie, Cornell University Professor L. Pearce Williams stated:
“The result of the Curies' work was epoch-making. Radium's radioactivity was so great that it could not be ignored. It seemed to contradict the principle of the conservation of energy and therefore forced a reconsideration of the foundations of physics. On the experimental level the discovery of radium provided men like Ernest Rutherford with sources of radioactivity with which they could probe the structure of the atom. As a result of Rutherford's experiments with alpha radiation, the nuclear atom was first postulated. In medicine, the radioactivity of radium appeared to offer a means by which cancer could be successfully attacked.”
Those who honor the first woman of science, must take care. Her work has proceeded her in more ways than one. The lasting impact of working with plutonium, uranium and radiation has bestowed a luminous effect. Literally.
When paying homage to one of the world’s most influential women and scientists, protection is required. Happy Birthday Madame, you light glows green for life-years to come.