Who is She? Marie Curie was a Polish born, Nobel Prize winning scientist who grew up under Soviet Russian oppression. As a child, speaking Polish was an offense that could put you in prison, but she learned it fluently. This early defiance would continue throughout her life.
What did She do? Her and her family’s research into radioactive materials led to the discovery of Radium and Polonium, an understanding of the structure of the atom, and the use of radiation as a treatment for some cancers and tumors. During World War I, she realized that many soldiers were dying of injuries that could not be treated in time. She and her daughter, Irene, rounded up as many x-ray machines as they could, loaded them onto ambulances and created the world’s first mobile radiology units. These “Little Curies” would help surgeons figure out where bullets were in the bodies of fallen men and operate in the right place. Marie Curie was the first woman ever to win the Nobel Prize and is one of only four people to win it twice.
Why does She matter? Because of Marie Curie, we have a clearer understanding of the most basic material of our world, the atom. Although she didn’t invent it, her innovation of using the x-ray machine as a diagnostic tool has saved millions of lives, as has the use of radiation in cancer treatment. Marie Curie paved the way for women to work in the sciences and to be respected for their work. Curiosity was her obsession and her gift to the world.