Women’s History Month: Marie Curie

25 03 2011

Photo ACJC, www.aip.org
For Women’s History Month, we are once again recognizing a woman who has made huge advances in science: Marie Curie.

Marie Curie was the first woman to ever receive a Nobel prize, and the first person to receive two (one in physics, one in chemistry)! She won her first Nobel prize in Physics in 1903 for research she completed with her husband, Pierre Curie, in radioactivity. The idea of radiation and the word radioactivity were invented by Marie Curie herself!

Today we know that there are lots of different kinds of radiation. The light from the sun is radiation! So are x-rays, a stronger kind of radiation, which doctors use today to be able to see our bones through our skin. Light radiation is too weak to pass through objects (like our skin) but the types of radiation (like x-rays) that Marie Curie worked with can. Marie and her daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, helped pioneer the use of x-rays in medicine during World War I.

Marie Curie’s discoveries set the foundation for atomic and nano research, and today allow us to understand much more about atoms, the tiny particles that make up our bodies, our planet, and our solar system. It is because of Marie Curie that we can even have NanoDays here at the museum!

Even though radiation is all around us, it can be harmful. For example, the sun’s radiation can give you a painful sun burn. Sadly, Marie Curie and her daughter both died of leukemia (a type of cancer) because they had been exposed to too much strong radiation.

To learn more about atoms, the way they behave, and nanotechnology, join us this Sunday, March 27th from 12 to 5 pm!

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