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KF5JRV > TODAY    20.04.19 16:02l 78 Lines 3932 Bytes #999 (0) @ WW
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Subj: Today in History - Apr 20
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On April 20, 1902, Marie and Pierre Curie successfully isolate
radioactive radium salts from the mineral pitchblende in their
laboratory in Paris. In 1898, the Curies discovered the existence of the
elements radium and polonium in their research of pitchblende. One year
after isolating radium, they would share the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics
with French scientist A. Henri Becquerel for their groundbreaking
investigations of radioactivity.

Marie Curie was born Marie Sklodowska in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867. The
daughter of a physics teacher, she was a gifted student and in 1891 went
to study at the Sorbonne in Paris. With highest honors, she received a
degree in physical sciences in 1893 and in mathematics in 1894. That
year she met Pierre Curie, a noted French physicist and chemist who had
done important work in magnetism. Marie and Pierre married in 1895,
marking the beginning of a scientific partnership that would achieve
world renown.

Looking for a subject for her doctoral thesis, Marie Curie began
studying uranium, which was at the heart of Becquerel’s discovery of
radioactivity in 1896. The term radioactivity, which describes the
phenomenon of radiation caused by atomic decay, was in fact coined by
Marie Curie. In her husband’s laboratory, she studied the mineral
pitchblende, of which uranium is the primary element, and reported the
probable existence of one or more other radioactive elements in the
mineral. Pierre Curie joined her in her research, and in 1898 they
discovered polonium, named after Marie’s native Poland, and radium.


While Pierre investigated the physical properties of the new elements,
Marie worked to chemically isolate radium from pitchblende. Unlike
uranium and polonium, radium does not occur freely in nature, and Marie
and her assistant Andre Debierne laboriously refined several tons of
pitchblende in order to isolate one-tenth gram of pure radium chloride
in 1902. On the results of this research, she was awarded her doctorate
of science in June 1903 and later in the year shared the Nobel Prize in
physics with her husband and Becquerel. She was the first woman to win a
Nobel Prize.

Pierre Curie was appointed to the chair of physics at the Sorbonne in
1904, and Marie continued her efforts to isolate pure, non-chloride
radium. On April 19, 1906, Pierre Curie was killed in an accident in the
Paris streets. Although devastated, Marie Curie vowed to continue her
work and in May 1906 was appointed to her husband’s seat at the
Sorbonne, thus becoming the university’s first female professor. In
1910, with Debierne, she finally succeeded in isolating pure, metallic
radium. For this achievement, she was the sole recipient of the 1911
Nobel Prize in chemistry, making her the first person to win a second
Nobel Prize.

She became interested in the medical applications of radioactive
substances, working on radiology during World War I and the potential of
radium as a cancer therapy. Beginning in 1918, the Radium Institute at
the University of Paris began to operate under Curie’s direction and
from its inception was a major center for chemistry and nuclear physics.
In 1921, she visited the United States, and President Warren G. Harding
presented her with a gram of radium.

Curie’s daughter, Irene Curie, was also a physical chemist and, with her
husband, Frederic Joliot, was awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize in chemistry
for the discovery of artificial radioactivity. Marie Curie died in 1934
from leukemia caused by four decades of exposure to radioactive
substances.



73 de Scott KF5JRV

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