March 4, 2021- In all the annals of the accomplishments of women in the scientific community, Marie Sklodowska Curie, (1867-1934), stands tall-as both the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize and in two fields, yet: Physics (shared with her husband, Pierre, and Henri Becquerel) and Chemistry. The Physics Prize stemmed from the trio’s work in the field of radioactivity, which is a term coined by Marie. The Chemistry Prize came in 1911, for her discovery of the elements Polonium and Radium, using her own techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes. Madame Curie established the Curie Institute in Paris (1920) and in Warsaw (1932). She would eventually die from the effects of exposure to radiation, in 1934, at the age of 66.
Marie’s father, Wladyslaw Sklodowski, was a gifted educator in mathematics and physics-and imparted a love of those subjects to his five children, especially to Marie and her older sister, Bronislawa. He insisted that his daughters get a solid university education. Madame Curie took this knowledge to a higher level, but never lost her gentility and modesty. She remains a beacon to all, men and women alike, who find themselves drawn to the Physical Sciences.
A trail blazer supported by a father who saw potential despite being XX. Her accomplishments are all the more incredible given that many women didn’t have higher educations. There was a movement that (selfish as it was) promoted educating women beyond learning to read and write and do simple arithmetic. The idea was that the more educated mother would be able to teach her young sons (and daughters by default) allowing them a head start among their peers…
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There is still the “Mothers are the first teachers” ethic-but daughters are no longer seen as default learners.