Marie Curie, née Sklodowska
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1911
Born: 7 November 1867, Warsaw, Russian Empire (now Poland)
Died: 4 July 1934, Sallanches, France
Affiliation at the time of the award: Sorbonne University, Paris, France
Prize motivation: "in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry by the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, by the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element."
Prize share: 1/1
Also awarded: The Nobel Prize in Physics 1903
Marie Skłodowska was born in Warsaw, Poland, to a family of teachers who believed strongly in education. She moved to Paris to continue her studies and there met Pierre Curie, who became both her husband and colleague in the field of radioactivity. The couple later shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics. Marie was widowed in 1906, but continued the couple's work and went on to become the first person ever to be awarded two Nobel Prizes. During World War I, Curie organized mobile X-ray teams. The Curies' daughter, Irene, was also jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry alongside her husband, Frederic Joliot.
1903 Prize: The 1896 discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel inspired Marie and Pierre Curie to further investigate this phenomenon. They examined many substances and minerals for signs of radioactivity. They found that the mineral pitchblende was more radioactive than uranium and concluded that it must contain other radioactive substances. From it they managed to extract two previously unknown elements, polonium and radium, both more radioactive than uranium.
1911 Prize: After Marie and Pierre Curie first discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium, Marie continued to investigate their properties. In 1910 she successfully produced radium as a pure metal, which proved the new element's existence beyond a doubt. She also documented the properties of the radioactive elements and their compounds. Radioactive compounds became important as sources of radiation in both scientific experiments and in the field of medicine, where they are used to treat tumors.
Their work and discoveries range from cancer therapy and laser physics to developing proteins that can solve humankind’s chemical problems. The work of the 2018 Nobel Laureates also included combating war crimes, as well as integrating innovation and climate with economic growth. Find out more.