Marie Curie (1867 -1934)

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Curie discovered two new elements, polonium and radium. She studied the properties of radium, extracting a decigram from uranium tailings. The science of radiation, developed as a result of the discovery of radium and its properties, led to an important application: diseased cells could be burned away in the body. Curie sought no patent for radium, believing its discovery was too important. The prevalence of chemotherapy today, a process which Curie was mainly responsible for initiating, would confirm that estimation.

Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize (in Physics) in 1903 with her husband, Pierre Curie. She won the Nobel Prize again in 1911, this time in Chemistry for her discovery of actinium.

Her later studies of radium and polonium were dedicated to the installation of X-ray machines, in hospitals during World War I, to locate shrapnel. One million soldiers were examined by X-ray units in all.

Her achievements included the developing of a theory of radioactivity, establishing techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, discovering two elements, and conducting the world’s first studies into the treatment of neoplasm. During World War One, she also established the first military field radiological centres.

She was a true groundbreaker, the only woman to win the Nobel Prize in two fields and the only person to win in multiple sciences. She was the first female professor at the Sorbonne and the first woman to be entombed on her own merits at the Pantheon in Paris. She also served in the League of Nations. As an unfortunate side effect of her work on radiation, Marie Curie died due to cancer.

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