o The Frog Blog: Marie Curie

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Marie Curie

Today, in 1911, Marie Curie became the first person to be awarded a second Nobel prize at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden. She had isolated radium by electrolyzing molten radium chloride. At the negative electrode the radium formed an amalgam with mercury. Heating the amalgam in a silica tube filled with nitrogen at low pressure boiled away the mercury, leaving pure white deposits of radium. The isolation of radium opened the door to deep changes in the way scientists think about matter and energy. She also led the way to a new era for medical science and the treatment of diseases.

This second prize was for her individual achievements in Chemistry, whereas her first prize (1903) was a collaborative effort with her husband, Pierre, and Henri Becquerel in Physics for her contributions in the discovery of radium and polonium. Her early researches were often performed under difficult conditions, laboratory arrangements were poor and both she and her husband had to undertake much teaching to earn a livelihood. She also received, 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. Mme. Curie died in Savoy, France, after a short illness, on July 4, 1934. To find out more about the life of Marie Curie click here.

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