World’s Super Scientists – Marie Curie

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Madam – a Palindrome – Marie Curie

Marie Curie (1867-1934), French Physicist and discoverer of Radium.

Scientist Marie Curie who was born in Warsaw, the capital of Poland was known popularly as Madam Curie: her maiden name was Manya Sklodowska. After she married Pierre Curie, she was known as Marie Curie.

Teenage anecdote

When seventeen-year- old Manya danced like a sprite and spoke like a scholar in an occasion, a youth from the University of Warsaw fell in love with pretty Manya; she returned the love. But, the mother of the youth did not allow marriage.

“I mean to say farewell to this contemptible world. The loss will be small…” wrote lovesick Manya to her cousin.

Despite this unhappy experience, pretty blonde with lithe of frame, Manya wooed Pierre.

The age-old tradition of denying education to women in Poland  debarred  her  from  pursuing higher studies.

Undaunted, she went to Paris for higher studies, where along with improving her knowledge she chose a partner in life, Pierre Curie. Pierre had written, “Women of genius are rare”.

He found the rare woman in his wife; his wife was a genius.

In research, her attention was focused on radioactivity. She took some pieces of uranium, the rays of which affected photo-plates.

The Curies obtained huge quantities of pitchblende (it is the basic mineral and the main source of uranium and radium).

It was a hard task to extract radium from pitchblende – a pin head size of radioactive material from a mountain of ore!

They worked under dire circumstances, under a tin roof with holes; rain water would seep in, spoiling all the setup — thus, they worked against odds, with great determination. Soon, their hard work was rewarded.
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In 1898, the substance obtained from pitchblende, when kept in a tube was found to glow. Thrilled by this, the Curies named it ‘Radium’.

In 1903, the discovery of radium fetched fame, name and a Nobel Prize in Physics.

Radium is used for several other purposes, e.g. to combat cancer. Radium needles are introduced into a body cavity, such as mouth, cervix of uterus, to treat cancer at those sites— cure in the hands of Curie.

In 1911, Marie Curie was again awarded the Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry for her work on isolation of polonium and radium. She is probably the only one to win two Nobel Prizes for two different categories.

Five Nobel Prizes were bagged by the family of Curie -two by Madam Curie, one by Pierre Curie, one by her daughter Irene Curie and one by Irene’s husband.

No other family in the world has ever won five Nobel prizes, a distinction of laudable service in sciences, beneficial to humanity at large. This is a unique example of devotion to science by members of one family.

Scientist Marie Curie developed blood cancer and leukemia due to exposure to radioactive materials and died on July 4, 1934.

Such was the tragic end of a scientist. The radium she had discovered, consumed her.

Tailpiece acrostic

Marie Curie Discovers Radium

Rascally to Curie but Astonishingly superb in action Dazzling and glowing in the tube In the experiment by the Curies, Undoubtedly a discovery to curb cancer; lo Maimed and killed the discoverer herself.
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Ought to know

1883-1962 : The Pap smear named after the Greek -born doctor, George Papanicolaou – a chance observation while doing genetic studies of cancer cells from a specimen of discharge from the uterus.

In medical history, the first observation of cancer cells in the smear from the cervix of the uterus evoked a great thrill in the early detection of the malady.

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