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Marie Curie in the lab
Marie Curie

The first female recipient of a Nobel Prize, Marie Curie is also the only person to have received two Nobel Prizes in different scientific fields.

If asked to picture a female scientist, Marie Curie is most likely the first woman that comes to mind. Born in Poland in 1867, she moved to Paris at the age of 24 to continue her studies at the Sorbonne, where her career in the physical sciences started.

Jamie Gallagher discusses some of the difficulties she encountered during this time.

Multiple Nobel Prize Laureate

Photograph of Marie Curie

Marie Curie was the first woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize and is the only person, male or female, to receive two Nobel Prizes in different scientific fields.

Together with her husband, Pierre, she was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics in recognition of their study into spontaneous radiation.

She continued her research into radioactivity after the death of her husband and in 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry. It was awarded in recognition of her services to the advancement of chemistry through the discovery of the elements radium and polonium, the isolation of radium and the study of the nature and compounds of this remarkable element.

Marie Curie died in 1934 but her scientific legacy continued beyond her death in the shape of her eldest daughter, Irene. Along with her husband Frederic Joliot, Irene was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1935 in recognition of their synthesis of new radioactive elements.

Marie Curie's contribution to the chemical sciences was further recognised when in 2011 when it was declared the International Year of Chemistry to coincide with the centenary of her being awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Words by Emily James, video by Jamie Gallagher
Images © Science Photo Library
Published July 2013

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