WOMAN SCIENTIST MARIE CURIE: ENDLESS STRUGGLE PERSONALITY
Rini Begam Laskar
Asstt. Prof. & Head, Deptartment of Bengali
West Silchar College Cachar, Assam
An extraordinary and incredible in the history of the world is Woman Nobel Laureate Marie Curie. Marie Curie was the first female doctorate in France and Poland, the first female professor and the first female Nobel laureate in the world. She is the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry. Moreover, Marie Curie’s family is world famous as ‘Curie family’, because the total number of Nobel laureates in the same Curie family is five. In addition to Marie’s two Nobel Prizes alone, husband Pierre Curie in Physics, eldest daughter Irene in Chemistry, Irene’s husband Frédéric Joliot in Chemistry and younger daughter Eve’s husband Henry Leboissy who was the Executive Director of UNICEF during that timeline, Under the leadership of UNICEF in 1965, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded. The total number of five Nobel- winners in the same family of six. Noticeable that Marie’s youngest daughter Eve was the only person in the ‘Curie family’ who did not study science and was the only family member who did not win a Nobel Prize but gained considerable reputation as a prolific writer (writing a biography of Madame Curie) and journalist (meeting famous people including Mahatma Gandhi). Indeed, it is still very rare to find another family like this in the whole world. Being born as an ordinary woman in an ordinary family in a critical condition of the country, her own intelligence, it is essential to shed light on her life to know how she became a remarkable person with human qualities like ambition, restraint, honesty, curiosity and tireless work.
On November 7, 1867, Marie was born to parents who were teachers in the city of Warsaw in Poland occupied by Russia. Marie’s father Jab Dravinna taught Mathematics and Physics at a school and mother Ronislava Skuloska was the principal of a private school for girls. Marie’s mother was suffering from tuberculosis. So due to the need to take care of five children and illness, she was finally forced to quit her job. In Poland, it was not possible to study in Polish at that time. All activities in schools, colleges and offices were conducted in Russian. In such a suffocating environment, Marie’s father lost his job at the school. Due to the sudden loss of income in the family, the girls had to move to a small house instead of a lavish house. Marie was an introvert as a child. While living together with many people, Marie has become accustomed to talking, moving slowly and above all to hide her emotions, feelings, i.e. self- control. The family situation became so deplorable that at one point Marie had to rent her own bedroom and sleep next to the dining table every night and wake up early in the morning to roll up the bed and prepare breakfast at the dining table.
Marie was very sick. At the age of four, she read a book on average. Marie’s mother died of disease when she was eleven and her older sister died of typhoid. During this time Marie suffered from extreme depression and began to believe that there was no such thing as God. Marie’s elder brother studied at a prestigious University in Poland. Marie and her elder sister wanted to go to University, but Moyol was not allowed to go to University at that time. Then Marie and her elder sister Bronia plan to take turns working and studying. The plan is that elder sister Bronia will go to France to study medicine and younger sister Marie will work to earn the money needed for her studies. So Marie moved to a town, sixty miles from Wausau to work as a plumber in the home of a wealthy man named Jurorsky. Marie had to teach the two small children in that man’s house for seven hours. After that, she would study in the library whenever she could spare, and in her spare time, with her father’s permission, teach the children of the neighbouring peasants, although this work was illegal and could lead to jail if caught.
Marie was restless and conflicted. While at the Zuorskis’ house, Marie develops a love affair with their eldest son, who is attending University, and the two want to tie the sacred knot of marriage, but this incident hurts the Zuorski family’s self- esteem and they decide that their son will never marry a Governess. After that, she endured all the insults and worked in that house for another two and a half years. The only reason is to raise money for elder sister’s education as promised.
Marie loved the boy very much and hoped that one day she could marry him, but that day never came in Marie’s life. In 1891, after the completion of medical studies of elder brother Praney, it was Marie’s turn to study. Then, at just twenty- four, Marie left for Paris with a truck and a camp chair.
Marie enrolled at the University of Paris. After a long eight- year hiatus, she first had to struggle in various branches of Mathematics and Science, and the French language was not yet mastered by her. Because of this, she had to dabble in various branches of science and art. After staying in Paris for a few days, she rented a small house on the other side of the city at a very low price, but there was no water supply in that house, nor was there any heating system in the house. In this condition, the patient faints due to hunger and fatigue in winter. At that time her sister’s husband came and rescued her. Thus, through constant hard work and perseverance, Marie overcame all obstacles and in 1894 graduated as the best student in her class, first in Physics and later in Mathematics.
In 1895, a young Physicist named Marie Pierre Juri got an opportunity to work in the lab. Marie was impressed by Pierre’s idealistic liberal nature. Both Pierre and Marie were addicted and devoted to Science, indifferent to worldly needs and indifferent to fame. Despite her scientific pursuits and deepening personal relationship with Pierre, Marie is determined to return to Poland and do research. In this case, Pierre tried to explain that Marie would not be able to do high- quality research in Poland with the help of modern equipment if she was in Paris. Besides, if both can practice science together, there is a possibility of opening new horizons in Physics. But after many attempts, Pierre failed and decided that he himself was willing to go with Marie to Poland but not willing to lose Marie. Marie was stunned by Pierre’s decision and without hesitation married Pierre in 1895.
Marie was thirty- nine years old when her first daughter, Irene, was born. When Pierre’s mother died within weeks of Irene’s birth, Pierre’s father, Eudin, moved in with Marie and advised Marie to concentrate on her own work, taking on the responsibility of looking after Irene. Marie then found time to complete her Ph.D. degree. She is the first woman doctorate in France. Her research topic was “Radioactivity”.
In 1896, Henri Bequerel discovered that uranium salts emit a sharp X- ray beam that requires no external energy. This ray is created from the inherent energy of the compound. Marie Becurel wrote her thesis on this mysterious ray. Marie used the electrometer invented ten years earlier by Pierre Curie and her brother for this task. This electrometer can measure electric charge. The electric charge in the air surrounding the scattered rays from the uranium
Marie was convinced that uranium rays produced electrical waves in the air and that the intensity of these rays was solely due to the quantity of uranium. This radiation is produced only from the amount of uranium, so Marie named this radiation ‘radioactivity’.
After doing a lot of research, Marie found that the amount of uranium in the peach kernels was much higher than the amount of uranium in the baking soda used, so she thought that peachblend must contain some substance other than uranium that emits more intense, powerful rays. Marie then set about finding the unknown object. Satisfied with Pierre Marie’s work, he found that extracting these radioactive substances from peaches was too laborious and time- consuming. So Pierre left his crystal research and joined Marie in her work. Marie and Pierre analyzed tons and tons of pitches day and night in the old lab. Marie named the first substance ‘polonium’ after her native Poland. A few days later, Panchar also announced the presence of another powerful substance which he named radium. Peach is also a very complex chemical substance and a combination of many chemical compounds. It is very difficult to single out any chemical from it. In 1902, she was able to extract one- tenth of a gram of pure radium salt by grinding one ton of five- blend. Then in 1903 Marie and Pierre Curie won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on radioactivity.
When Marie’s eldest daughter Irene was seven years old, her youngest daughter Eve was born. Pierre Curie died in a sudden accident 16 months after Eve was born. Marie lost the closest people in her life, friends, husband, colleagues all at once. But as per the promise they made to each other while alive, Marie continued her science pursuits. After Pierre’s death, Marie got Pierre’s professorship at Saraban College and took charge of her husband’s lab. After so many years Saraban got a teaching seat according to her merit. And Saraban was the first woman to be appointed as a professor.
In 1911, when Marie was overwhelmed by a series of tragic events, she received the good news that she had won a second single – handedly Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of radium and polonium. Marie was very socially conscious and philanthropic. After receiving the second Nobel Prize, when World War II became inevitable, Marie wrote to her daughter Irene “Things – seem to be turning bad… you and I Irene, we must look for a way to make ourselves useful.”
She strove to directly apply the radioactivity she had discovered during the war, and at an early stage arranged for a type of x- ray machine to be built and built 20 mobile x- ray centres on the battlefield. Basically, it was possible to know where the soldiers were shot in the war or how the bones of the body were broken through this x-ray. Marie at war with her 12- year- old daughter, Irene
In addition to traveling to the front line, she assists doctors and nurses in surgeries. Notably, Marie’s body was exposed to large amounts of radioactivity due to the constant use of x- ray machines in the battlefield. As a result of which she was diagnosed with cancer (neukoma) and breathed her last on July 4, 1934.
She also donated Pierre’s gold Nobel medal to raise funds for various humanitarian projects during the war. The pioneer of Science and Psychology, Marie Curie has received many honors, recognitions, awards and praises for her humanitarian work and unique discoveries. A film based on her life was nominated for an Oscar. Several coins, bank notes and stamps have been issued in her honour. In addition, the substance number 16 of the periodic table of substances has been named “Curium” after Marie and Pierre Curie.
Thus, a review of the life of the great scientist Marie Curie reveals that her entire life is like a battlefield. It is incredible how much discrimination, obstruction and neglect the feminist Marie Curie faced during her lifetime. He always said one thing, “Never give up hope, never”. Therefore, it can be said that Marie Curie’s indomitable spirit, perseverance and determination to continue the uncompromising struggle despite all the problems or adversities, she was finally able to win. Albert Einstein is right said, “She was probably the only person who was not corrupted by the fame that she had won”
“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have keep perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing at whatever cost, must be attained.”
“I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done”
“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals”
– Marie Curie