Marie Curie was born on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw, Poland. Her mother was a teacher in a secondary school and her father was a scientist. She studied in a public school, although her father gave her some scientific training. She left Warsaw after joining a revolutionary organization and moved to Cracow.
In 1891, she moved to Paris and studied at the Sorbonne. There, she obtained degrees in Physics and Mathematics. There, she met Pierre Curie, who was a professor in the School of Physics, and they married a year later. She continued her studies, earning a doctorate in 1903 and took over Pierre's job as professor of general physics after his death in 1906. She was also given directorship of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris in 1914.
Her initial research with her husband was conducted in difficult conditions. They were inspired to study radioactivity after its discovery by Becquerel in 1896. The couple successfully isolated polonium and radium, two new radioactive elements in the periodic table. Marie developed a number of methods for separating radium from radioactive residue in order to get large enough samples for experimentation.
She promoted the usage of radium to alleviate suffering and worked with her daughter Irene to study its effect on humans. Marie believed that X-ray radiation could be put in vans and used on the battlefield to help locate shrapnel in the wounded. She also worked towards putting X-ray equipment in hospital, establishing standards for their use that are still followed today.
Her work gained a lot of attention, even prompting Herbert Hoover, president of the U.S., to donate $50,000 to her for the purchase of radium. In 1911, she was made an honorary member of the Conseil du Physique Solvay. She and her husband received the Nobel prize in 1903 for their study of spontaneous radiation. In 1911, she received another Nobel prize for her work in radioactivity and the discovery of the radium.
Marie Curie did many things that no women before her had ever done. She showed that women could make important scientific discoveries and contribute greatly to the knowledge of mankind. She died in July of 1934 of leukemia, almost blind and with burnt hands from experimenting with radium.