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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Marie Curie

b. 1867, Warsaw; d. 1934, Sancellemoz, France

Marie Curie, often referred to as Madame Curie, was a Polish-French physicist who, along with her husband Pierre Curie, became a pioneer in the field of radioactivity by identifying two new chemical elements, polonium and radium, in 1902. Laws in Poland prohibited women from attending university, so in 1891 Curie relocated to Paris, where she met her husband, earned her degrees, and conducted all of her pathbreaking research. She was a woman of many firsts: the first woman in France to complete her doctorate (in 1903, from the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris, also known as ESPCI); the first woman appointed to teach at the Sorbonne; the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize (for physics, in 1903, shared with her husband and Henri Becquerel); the first person to win two Nobel Prizes (the second was for chemistry, in 1911); the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes; and one of only two people to have done so (as of 2006, the only other winner of two Nobel Prizes was Linus Pauling). She founded two Radium Institutes: the first in Paris around 1920, which is now a leading research center for biophysics, cellular biology, and oncology, and a cancer treatment hospital; and the second, in Warsaw in 1932, today a cancer research and treatment center. Her eldest daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, also won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935.