Marie Curie: Changing The World With One Discovery At A Time

Marie Curie once said, “We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained”. Marie Curie was a hardworking woman who helped improve women’s workforce history in the world. Through all the problems that she encountered as a physicist, chemist, and as a pioneer in the study of radiation as a woman, she persevered and knew the limits of her outstanding intelligence. She was confident and stayed put and continued her dream of the maths and sciences when people were to discriminate against her for being a woman working in a male-dominated field. Marie Curie was not given any advantages and worked hard to get and achieve scientific greatness. Throughout Marie Curie’s lifetime, she has demonstrated her power in the women’s workforce, she has not only exceeded everyone’s expectations by breaking gender barriers, but also in research, scientific breakthroughs, and her success and accolades; but, has also changed the history for women working in a fantastic way.

Marie Curie broke gender barriers with her confidence and perseverance to pursue her passion for discovery and learning. Marie Curie stated, 'Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained'. In a time (The late 1800s into early-mid 1900s) where women did not have a chance at higher education and were told to stay at home, Marie Curie decided she was not going to do that and to pursue her dream of becoming an amazing scientist, chemist, physicist, with the full support from both her parents. Marie Curie never stopped wanting to learn something new because that was her amazing passion. Marie Curie was always selfless and always looked out for her family’s needs before her own. Since her mother’s death when she was young her family struggled to make ends meet. Keeping her passion for school, she had to put it on hold for a little while and she worked and worked so she could afford college in Paris, one of the best. But not before helping her sister pay for university before going herself. To add on, in her free time she studied for college so she would not be left behind, and attended illegal free lectures to keep her passion burning until she could afford to go to university. Being a woman in this time period (which? State era or years) and her having to fend for herself so she could exceed in life and change the scientific world. Her confidence in herself is the only thing she needed when not even her country believed in her, as women were not allowed higher education there. And it paid off when she graduated, but with her hard work. She had to learn a whole new language to her (French) and study college-level classes at the most prestigious university in Paris at the same time. She graduated at the top of her class for her Master’s Physics Degree course. And later going back to study and graduate with both Chemistry and Mathematics degrees. In a New York Times newspaper it stated, “A WOMAN SCIENTIST was such a rarity in early-20th-century Britain that other women could not conceal their surprise at encountering one. Even the eminent suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst, when seated next to a female engineer at a formal dinner, was heard to exclaim, “But surely that’s a very unsuitable occupation for a lady, isn’t it?”. In the year 1990, the nation employed about two million women as domestic servants with about two-hundred female doctors and two female architects! Marie Curie worked every day in a male-dominated field who never believed in her as a scientist except for her husband of course. Before being nominated for her Nobel Prize the committee only asked the two men working with her, her husband, and their lab partner; but, her husband pushed for them to give Marie Curie credit too. Confidence and perseverance helped her make scientific discoveries that changed the world. Her work and confidence beat many in her field, she was published, interviewed, praised, etc; she broke the gender barrier and gave women all around hope to become the scientists of tomorrow. Marie Curie broke gender barriers by choosing to continue her education and exceeding others in it and by also dominating the male-dominated science work-field.

Marie Curie’s research helped change the science world with her own discoveries and her discoveries made with her husband and lab partner. According to the Nobel Prize it states, “Jointly with her husband, the Davy Medal of the Royal Society in 1903 and, in 1921, President Harding of the United States, on behalf of the women of America, presented her with one gram of radium in recognition of her service to science” (The Nobel Prize in Physics 1903). In recognition of Marie Curie’s research, she received what she had been dreaming to get her hands on for her lifetime, radium. In the 1800s till now radium is still very expensive, it can go all the way from 100,000 to 120,000 dollars. Marie Curie changed the science world the moment she discovered her passion for the work. With the help of her husband and her lab partner, they discovered something great all together when they put their great minds together it created something spectacular. The discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel in 1896 inspired Marie Curie and her husband in their brilliant researches and analyses which led to the isolation of polonium, which was specially named after the country where Marie was birthed, and radium. Marie Curie developed methods for the separation of radium from radioactive residues in abundant quantities to allow radium its characterization and the study of its properties, therapeutic properties, etc. During her research, Marie Curie was exposed to a ton of radium and later died from the effects of this. A quote from Marie Curie states, 'Humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit'. This is a quote that Marie Curie stated word by word. She wants more people like her to go out into the world and change it with the intent of doing good and to do so for the world instead of only for yourself. Marie Curie is remembered for her discovery of radium and polonium, and her huge contribution to finding treatments for cancer. A phenomenon that had recently been discovered by Henri Becquerel was released to the world. He had shown that the rays were able to pass through the fog, solid matter, and photographic film and caused air to make electricity. Marie also noticed that samples of a mineral called pitchblende, which has uranium in its contents, were more radioactive than the pure element uranium. That it could only be present in tiny quantities, and it seemed to be very radioactive. She was sure she had found a new chemical element but other scientists did not believe her, did not agree with her, and doubted her. Marie Curie and her husband worked day and night to search and discover this unknown element. They used samples of pitchblende, dissolved them in acid, and began to separate the different elements that showed, using the analytical chemistry techniques of the time (the late 1800s). She later published strong evidence supporting the existence of the new element in 1898 and it got added to the periodic table. Marie Curie has changed the science world with her amazing discoveries and her research; Marie Curie is so invested in science and improving it that she risked her life to get discovery for the science-field.

Marie Curie and her team together made their own scientific breakthroughs by themselves and together, changing the world with their brains. Marie Curie said, 'Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood.' (Marie Curie the Scientist: Biog, Facts & Quotes). Marie Curie devoted most if not all of her life to the good of science. To break the barriers and break through the walls and challenges that faced her during her work; like the fails in her experiments only to lead to the positive outcomes for herself and her team. With great perseverance and confidence that she had herself brang her amazing outcomes. Marie Curie is known to be the mother of modern physics, with her great sacrifices to discover the unknown, the undiscovered. Marie Curie discovered new minerals, worked on inventing new objects, for example, she worked on the invention of the x-ray after her husband's death, and way more. She sacrificed her life in a way for science to advance into the future, to take a big leap. She spent tens of years surrounded by radioactive minerals and objects; for example, when discovering polonium, she had no protective gear and she extracted the mineral too. Polonium is three-hundred more times radioactive than uranium, and that is not all of it, Marie spent her life around minerals like this. It is known that still after one-hundred years after her death that Marie Curie’s furniture, papers, cookbooks, etc, are still radioactive, and to see these objects in person, you would need to wear protective clothing. Marie Spent her life not fearing the unknown but to dive straight into it, without precaution. People at the Noble Prize stated about Marie Curie, “She retained her enthusiasm for science throughout her life and did much to establish a radioactivity laboratory in her native city – in 1929 President Hoover of the United States presented her with a gift of $50,000, donated by American friends of science, to purchase radium for use in the laboratory in Warsaw”. At the peak of her life, Marie Curie was given money to push forward with her work in the sciences, she was given funds to purchase the expensive mineral, radium. Before receiving this money, Marie Curie would purchase a cheaper but similar mineral. She got in touch with a factory in Austria that removed the uranium from pitchblende for industrial use and bought several tons of the non valuable waste product, this was more radioactive than the original pitchblende, and was much cheaper. Marie set processing the pitchblende to extract the small quantities of radium. This involved working on a much larger scale than before, with twenty kilograms batches of the mineral. Doing actions like grinding, dissolving, collecting, crystallizing, etc. The exposure to so much radium led to her becoming sicker as her life went on, cutting her years left on Earth. But with the help of the money and her team, they discovered the minerals named Radium and Polonium, which was later added onto the periodic table. Marie Curie made scientific breakthroughs in her lifetime, she discovered Radium and Polonium and risked her life while doing so; Marie Curie feared nothing and strived for greatness in her scientific breakthroughs.

Marie Curie did not only contribute to only the science world, but she also contributed to the medical world. “During World War 1, 1914 – 1918, Marie Curie put her scientific knowledge to use.“With the help of her daughter Irene, who was only 17 years old, she set up radiology medical units near battle lines to allow X-rays to be taken of wounded soldiers. By the end of the war, over one million injured soldiers had passed through her radiology units” (Home). Marie’s life was not dedicated to science, it was dedicated to the people. As she devoted her life to improving the world, pushing it into the future. Marie Curie helped others through science and medicine. Marie Curie was one of the people to help with the discovery of the x-ray. With the help of radium, it was used to be the gamma-ray source on the x-ray machine. But going straight into the war to help their country is courageous and at such a young age too. The bravery to help others and to use the machine that she helped create to possibly save over a million people; to foresee any huge complications they may face during their surgeries, healing, etc. Marie Curie used her great discoveries to help millions of people, her discoveries in the science world are praised in the medical world as they intertwine to help the people. The text states, “She and her husband had discovered that radium destroyed diseased cells faster than healthy cells, and thus that radiation could be used to treat tumors” (The Nobel Prize: Women Who Changed Science: Marie Curie). The Curie’s research saved the lives of millions. With their tremendous research, testing/trials, they came to the conclusion that they could use radiation to treat tumors. This was both a scientific and medical breakthrough for the Curies. Their research was taken carefully and showed spectacular results that could make tumors go away. Even today we use radiation to fight back at cancer, as it may lead to the destruction of good cells, it is one of the ways that is approved by professionals that can take away tumors, cancer, etc. With well observation and patterns, the Curies put the puzzle pieces together to solve a medical problem that was taking the lives of many. Marie Curie and her family all did their part to help people in their best interests, and their help is still recognized today.

Marie Curie’s work has influenced many to go out and to do something for the better of the people, the world. Her research was fueled by her confidence in herself and her perseverance; when no one believed her she believed in herself and that was enough to put a fire up her engines to discover something life-changing. Without Marie Curie, many people’s lives would be different as her discovery of radium and polonium are used in objects that can save lives, make our lives more efficient, etc. The research matters because Marie Curie spent her life to change the world for the better for the incoming generations, from discovering new to breaking gender barriers and changing the social norm of women working in male-dominated workforces. She influenced many to have confidence in themselves and believe that they should not depend on anyone but themselves to reach for the stars. Readers should care because her work made Earth as a whole improve. Marie Curie is a hardworking, brave, confident, intelligent woman who with her research made discoveries and changed many lives for the better.

16 December 2021
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