(November 7, 1867 – July 4, 1934)
Marie Sklodowska-Curie is among the most underrated scientists. Partly because she was a woman in a “man’s world”: at the time when women were not even allowed to vote in Europe and the USA. So, don’t be surprised if you didn’t hear about her as much as you heard about Albert Einstein. Notwithstanding, she was a more prolific researcher who won more prestigious honors than Einstein. Curie is the first female Nobel laureate; and so far, the only person to win two Nobel Prizes in two branches of science: physics and chemistry. She is also the first female who became tenured professor at the University of Paris (Sorbonne), France. In addition to discovering polonium and radium, Curie’s development of Radioactive Chemistry strengthened the foundations of Atomic Physics and Nuclear Technologies. Following the deaths of her husband (Pierre Curie) in 1906 and their mentor (Henri Becquerel) in 1908, Marie Curie continued to advance the groundwork which they had initiated. She also contributed to practical applications of the X-rays, which Wilhelm Roentgen pioneered. In fact, the reason why she relegated her radioactive research to the backseat during the First World War was because she volunteered to serve the French military as an X-ray radiographer. Forget the media overhypes of Albert Einstein. In terms of hardcore science, Mrs. Curie demonstrated more flair and more resourcefulness than him. And she has greater accolades to show for that. All achieved while facing parodies, resentments, impertinences, alongside ingrained gender discriminations at every cadre of the academia.