In Praise of Marie Curie

Just watched for the second time on BBC4 a documentary about Marie Curie. What an astonishing life, what achievements, what she overcame. She went to the Sorbonne university in Paris decades before Oxford or Cambridge allowed women to enter. She coined the word radioactivity while conducting research in that area. She discovered Radium. And Polonium. She won the Nobel Prize for Physics, then a few years later for Chemistry - still before most universities allowed women to study. She designed mobile x-ray vans to enable wounded soldiers in WW1 to be treated - over a million French wounded were helped as a result. She drove one of the vans herself, and her daughter did the same. She devised the idea that radioactivity might help deal with certain cancerous cells. She spoke to capacity crowd of women students at Carnegie Hall, New York, and was hosted by President Harding at the White House. She set up two radium research institutes, one in Paris, the other in her homeland of Poland, in Warsaw. She died aged 67 in 1934, and her remains (and her husband's) were moved in 1995 to the Pantheon in Paris where only the greatest of French people are buried, becoming the first woman to be so honoured. The event was filmed and thousands lined the street in this state ceremony. The finest role model for not just women, but for all people of all times. A true genius, Maria Sklodowska-Curie. There should be a statue of her in every town in the world to remind us of what people can aspire to and accomplish.

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© 2019 by Martin Stepek.