The Luminous Ones: Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Physicist Marie Curie at her laboratory at the University of Paris in France in 1911

“Till death do us part” has a unique meaning for Marie Sklodowska Curie whose relentless resolve and insatiable curiosity made her an icon in science. Indefatigable despite a career of physically demanding and ultimately fatal work, she discovered polonium and radium, championed the use of radiation in medicine, and fundamentally changed our understanding of radioactivity.

In 1903, Curie became the first women to receive a Nobel Prize (in physics). French academics originally proposed only her husband and Henri Becquerel for the prize, but Pierre Curie insisted that his wife share the honour.

In 1911, Marie Curie was awarded a second Nobel Prize for the isolation of radium, this time to chemistry. She was and still is the only person to be awarded Nobel Prizes in two scientific categories.

More Notable Quotes by Marie Curie

“We must not forget that when radium was discovered no one knew that it would prove useful in hospitals. The work was one of pure science. And this is a proof that scientific work must not be considered from the point of view of the direct usefulness of it. It must be done for itself, for the beauty of science..”


“A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.”


“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”


“Humanity needs practical men, who get the most out of their work … but humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.”

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