Marie Curie: A Pioneering Physicist


Aspirations come from hopes and dreams only a dedicated person can
conjure up. They can range from passing the third grade to making the local
high school football team. Marie Curie\'s aspirations, however, were much
greater.
Life in late 19th century Poland was rough. Being a female in those
days wasn\'t a walk in the park either. Marie Curie is recognized in history by
the name she took in her adopted country, France. Born in Poland in 1867, she
was christened Manya Sklodowska. In the year of her birth, Poland was ruled by
the neighboring Russia; no Pole could forget it, or at least anyone involved in
education, as both Manya\'s parents were. Manya\'s mother was a headmistress of a
girls\' school. The Russians insisted that Polish schools teach the Russian
language and Russian history. The Poles had to teach their children their own
language and history in secrecy.
Manya enjoyed learning but her childhood was always overshadowed by
depression. At the young age of six, her father lost his job and her family
became very poor. In the same year of 1873, her mother died of tuberculosis.
As if that wasn\'t enough tragedy for the family already, two of her sisters died
of typhus as well. Her oldest sister, Bronya, had to leave school early to take
care of the family. Despite all these hardships and setbacks, Manya continued
to work hard at school.
Although her sister Bronya had stopped going to school to act as the
family\'s housekeeper, she desperately wanted to go on studying to become a
doctor. This was almost impossible in Poland, however. In Poland, women were
not allowed to go to college. Many Poles took the option to flee from Russian
rule and live in France; this is exactly what Bronya did. She had set her
heart on going to Paris to study at the famous Sorbonne University (The
University of Paris). The only problem now was that she had no money to get
there.
Manya and Bronya agreed to help each other attain their educations.
Manya got a job as a governess and sent her earnings to support Bronya in Paris.
Then, when Bronya could afford it, she would help Manya with her schooling and
education in return. Manya went to live in a village called Szczuki with a
family called Zorawski. Aside from teaching the two children of the family for
seven hours a day, she organized lessons for her own benefit as well. Manya
spent her evenings, late evenings, and even mornings devouring books on
mathmatics and science.
Bronya finished her studies and married a Polish doctor, Casimir Dluski.
They invited Manya to live with them in Paris while she went to college. Manya
didn\'t want to leave her country and most importantly, her family. Her
eagerness for the quest of knowledge overcame her fear of the unknown,
nonetheless. She travelled to Paris in an open railroad car on a trip that
lasted three days in the Polish winter. She arrived safely to her long-since-
childhood dream, the city of Paris. Manya Sklodowska quickly became Marie.
While Marie improved her French, she stayed with Bronya and her husband.
They lived more than an hour away from the university. Marie wanted to be
nearer to her work, so she eventually ended up moving out of her sister\'s home
and into a single cold damp room, eating only enough to keep her alive.
Fortunate enough for a scholarship, Marie was able to go on studying until she
had completed two courses. In her final exam-inations, she came in first in
the subject of mathematics and second in physics. By 1894, at the age of 27,
Marie had aquired not one, but two degrees from France\'s top university and also
became a totally fluent speaker of the French language.
Marie had always ruled love and marriage out of her life\'s program. She
was obsessed by her dreams, harassed by poverty, and overdriven by intensive
work. Nothing else counted; nothing else existed. She did, however, meet a
young man every day at Sorbonne and at the laboratory. Marie and her destiny
actually met on coincidence. Marie needed somewhere to conduct her experiments
for research ordered by the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry.
The lab at Sorbonne was too crowded with students, in addition to not having the
right equipment. A friend of hers suggested a friend\'s labratory. His name was
Pierre Curie. Marie soon completed her commitment to her adopted country by
marrying this Frenchman.
Marie and Pierre Curie got married in 1895. The two