Albert Einstein once said of Marie Curie that she was “of all celebrated beings, the only one whom fame has not corrupted.” Though she was the first female to win a Nobel Prize and the first person ever to be awarded two of them, Marie Curie operated under the constant inner-affirmation that all men and women were open to equal opportunities, and that the marvelous findings of her scientific work were indeed not hers to own—they belonged to the world.
She was born in Warsaw, Poland, during a time of Russian subjectivity and of a time when many women were excluded from higher education. She was the daughter of a teacher and was determined to have an impact on the scientific world—an impact that would not be self-serving, but one that would prove to serve millions of people for generations to come. Her work alongside her beloved husband and scientific companion, Pierre Curie, led to greater understanding of radiation and its potentially life-saving ability to destroy cancerous cells. It also led to her establishing X-ray centers in field hospitals to help battlefield surgeons alleviate pain and suffering for French soldiers in World War I.
The road to her success was arduous and serpentine. A woman in a field that was, generally, a man’s, she proved that a brilliant mind and dedication can lead to profound work. And due to the nature of the work she and Pierre were doing, she worked for years in dreadful conditions, in uninsulated sheds, hardly sheltered from the elements while taxing both her mental prowess and physical abilities. Marie wrote, “I had to spend a whole day mixing a boiling mass with a heavy iron rod nearly as large as myself. I would be broken with fatigue at the day’s end.” But steadfast in her mission, finding joy in the struggles where she found ultimate payoff, Marie also wrote that her years in that “miserable shed” were “the best and happiest” times of her life.
Working for the future of the scientific community, paving a way for learners of all sorts, male or female, and ultimately discovering life-changing possibilities through her studies of radiation, Marie Curie lived a life of passion and steadfastness.
Two-time Nobel Prize winner, the first female professor in France, and founder of world-renowned laboratories, but above all, Marie Curie was an unrelenting champion for her science and a determined champion for others.
Hers was an investment in a life of uncompromising commitment.