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Creative Genius - Marie Słodowska Curie

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

#scientist #curious #pioneer #inventor #2nobelprizes

“A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician; he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.”

Is it easy to achieve what you wish for? To quench your thirst you have to deal with hindrances, look for alternatives and find more ideas to reach your goal. All the troubles and hindrances make you a new person, help you to deal with difficult things, fight for yourself and this is what makes you a creative person.

The term “radioactivity” is one of the greatest examples of creativity, which was not invented by a man but a woman who had to work hard in a men-dominating society, who successfully achieved two Nobel prizes and became the first woman to achieve it. She was not only a creative genius but also one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century.


She was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867 in a family of seven members, as a youngest child. Her parents were her teachers so she was taught to read and write early. She was a brilliant student with a sharp memory and curious mind. Her interest was to accomplish something that had not been discovered and her intrusiveness and love toward science was the same as a child’s love for fairy tales.

Her family had a difficult time when Poland came under the control of Russia and people were not allowed to read and write in Polish language. During this difficult time, her parents lost their job. Things got more difficult when at the age of ten Marie lost her sister who became sick, died from typhus, and lost her mother after two years who passed away due to tuberculosis.

Marie wanted to attend the university after graduating from high school but at that time in the 1800s, it was not acceptable in Poland for women to study in a university.

She had an enthusiasm to read lots of books on physics and chemistry and her interest in these subjects led her to become a scientist. Later, Marie joined a university in Paris, France as a poor student and she successfully achieved the Physics degree. She met a scientist Pierre Curie in 1894; she fell in love and they got married in 1895. In her later life, she and Albert Einstein became friends, and had many conversations that she enjoyed. The creator of theory of relativity said about her: “Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the one whom fame has not corrupted”.

Scientific discoveries

Marie began the experiments when she got fascinated by the X-rays and rays from Uranium, which were discovered by scientist Wilhelm Roentgen and Henri Becquerel. One of the elements, which Marie and her husband spent hours in experimenting with, was Pitchblende. They discovered two elements in pitchblende and named them polonium and radium. Due to strong rays of these elements, they named this term “radioactivity” and theorized the concept as well. She also discovered the use of x-rays to locate the bullets and facilitate surgeries. As X-rays, machines were only found in the hospitals, so she invented a mobile X-ray unit called “radiological car” containing X-ray machines and photographic darkroom equipment and operated it with the help of dynamo (a kind of electrical generator). Marie got 20 more cars as donations from the wealthy Parisian women. She fitted the cars with X-rays and trained 20 women as a volunteer, sent them to treat the soldiers and then trained more women. She trained a total of 150 female attendants, which saved many lives.


Marie Curie faced the hindrances when she lost her mother and sister due to different diseases. Her father lost his job and they fell into financial strains. To reach her dream, she earned money for her sister’s studies to become a doctor in France so that later on, her sister could support her studies too. She spent 6 years waiting, to be admitted in the university, to achieve her dreams. She joined the university as a poor student and suffered with health issues, as she could not afford a proper diet. She also suffered another big loss when her supporting husband was killed in Paris by a horse drawn wagon.

Despite getting two Nobel prizes, she struggled to get recognition in the French scientific society. With the help of her husband, she was successful to get her name in the proposal transmitted to the Nobel Committee by the French Academy of Sciences for their work on radiation phenomena.

As a woman, she had to face hindrances in the men owned world; she was turned down to be elected as a member at the French Academy of Sciences. Although she received many awards, medals and Nobel prizes, the press did not support and appreciat her work as compared to other scientists.Even with all the obstacles and opposition from the people around her, she successfully won their heart and achieved international status for her scientific efforts.

“I have frequently been questioned, especially by women, of how I could reconcile family life with a scientific career. Well, it has not been easy” - Marie Curie

Work habits

Marie Curie had a phenomenal memory. She spent her life on research and discoveries. She received a gold medal on completion of her secondary education. She spent her time reading books of Physics and Chemistry and later took teaching to support her family during financial crises. At the same time, she read secretly to polish workers in a free university. She also financed her sister’s studies from her earnings. Later she received her doctorate of science in 1903 and was awarded the Davy Medal of the Royal Society. She did not stop working after getting married and having children and continued her scientific work. She was appointed as a lecturer in physics and introduced a teaching method based on experimental demonstration. She also worked as a chief assistant in the laboratory directed by her husband.

“One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done."

– Maria Curie

Creative mind

Determined: Although she knew that she had to fight for her success in a men-dominating society, with zero financial support from her father, she did not stop her struggle and found out ways to succeed and work for her goals. She worked as a governess, supported her family and sister’s education and planned college education for herself in Paris. She was passionate about her research work; she made her own laboratory by turning a non-ventilated dissecting room into a research room to carry out all her experiments.

Divergent thinker: She wasn't waiting for inspiration to come. She would rather own her remarkable achievements due to her ability of thinking divergently. She thought of many possibilities, experimented and tried to see which one works.

Analytical: She was highly analytical and critical in her thinking. She researched, investigated, and studied deeply by investing her time in the laboratory. She worked whole day and night by experimenting on “pitchblende” to discover the unknown elements, which she named as radium and polonium.

Compassionate: Marie used her expertise by establishing and administering the X-rays post that could be used by the battlefield doctors to treat wounded soldiers. She operated and repaired the machines herself; she created a Cutting-edge laboratory with the Australian government to conduct all the research and also raised funds for it.

Educator: Maria and her husband were both teachers; however, they were more passionate about research. When she won a Nobel Prize in 1903, she used the prize money on furthering her research and feeding her passion for it. She was also an inspiring mother. She raised a daughter Irène who also won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.

“One of our pleasures was to enter our workshop at night; then, all around us, we would see the luminous silhouettes of the beakers and capsules that contained our products.” - Maria Curie


At the age of 67, she died of leukaemia, which she most probably acquired due to her exposure to high levels of radiation in her research. Radium Institute was renamed as Curie Institute. In the UK, Marie Curie is a charity for people with any terminal disease; it also provides support to the families and caretakers. Many dramatizations and films had been created about Marie Curie life and work, in her honour.


‘Marie Curie the scientist’


‘14 Memorable Quotes by Marie Curie, The First Female Nobel Prize Winner’

Biography. ‘Marie Curie’

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