Marie Curie

In 1911, which scientist became the first person in history to win two Nobel Prizes?

And the answer: Marie Curie.

Photo courtesy: AFP / Getty Images. 

When she won the Nobel Prize in 1903, Marie Curie was the first woman in history to do so. When she won again in 1911, she became the first person in history to win two Nobel Prizes. Her work with her husband Pierre led to the discovery of polonium and radium, and she championed the development of X-rays.

Marie Curie was born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867, to a family of prominent educators. Curie studied in secret, as due to the fact that she could not obtain acceptance to the male-only University of Warsaw. Curie left the country to seek her PhD in France, making her the first woman to do so.

It was in Paris that Curie met life partner Pierre Curie. The two were a brilliant couple in the laboratory, and began their studies of radiation together. In 1903, the couple received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their groundbreaking work in the field. Interestingly, the two were so singleminded in their work that they declined to attend the ceremony honoring the achievement – it would interfere with their research too much.

Pierre died in a horse carriage accident in 1906. Despite this loss, Curie continued their work and was offered her husband's teaching position to become the first female professor at the Sorbonne in Paris. Curie's research went on to help establish the field of radiation therapy for cancer. By first creating an understanding of the effects of radioactivity, Curie then quantified its effect on living cells to see how it could benefit forms of cancer treatment.

Learn more about the life and achievements of this pioneer of science below.

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