#WCE: Woman Crush Everyday - Marie Curie
Being a physics student, the woman who inspires me the most is Marie Curie; she fought against foreign oppression, poverty and sexism to pursue her passions for science and become a double Nobel Laureate. Her legacy has echoed throughout time, with various organisations bearing her name and her discoveries forming the backbone of oncological and physical sciences. Her accolades distinguish her as one of the greatest scientists to have ever lived, being the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win twice and the only person to ever win in two separate categories.
On the 7th of November 1867, Marie Curie, then Maria Skłodowska, was born and subsequently raised in Russian-controlled Warsaw. Under the rule of the Russian Empire, censorship was rampant. This included the complete erasure of the scientific curriculum from mainstream Polish education. Her father tutored Marie in science with the lab apparatus he was no longer allowed to use in his classes. She excelled and aspired to attend university. However, when it came time for her to apply for higher education, she was turned away from the University of Warsaw because she was a woman. Undeterred, she began studying at the underground Flying University, an illegal education institution that taught a curriculum free of Russian censorship but, more importantly, admitted women.
She stayed there until 1891 when, with barely a penny to her name, she moved to France to study physics, chemistry and mathematics at the University of Paris. Despite intense and debilitating poverty, she had two degrees by 1894. Shortly after, she returned to Poland to visit family and whilst at home was denied admittance to a Polish university again because she was a woman, this time the University of Krakow. So she forsook her homeland in order to to pursue her Ph.D. at the University of Paris instead.
After her Ph.D., she also conducted pioneering research into radioactivity along with her husband Pierre Curie and physicist Henri Becquerel, for which she won the Nobel Prize in Physics. She also discovered the two elements radium and polonium, for which she won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and the latter of which was named after her homeland. She also struggled against the xenophobic attitudes in France at the time, where she was frequently smeared by the country’s press in spite of her amazing work. Despite this, when WWI began she was the one responsible for implementing radiology stations on the front line in order to improve front line health care. She died on the 4th of July, 1934, from aplastic anaemia caused by the radiation exposure she endured during her research.
Marie Curie inspires me simply because of how she struggled against so much prejudice in her lifetime, yet managed to achieve so much. She succeeded in a world where the life aspirations and opportunities available for women were snubbed as soon as they were born.
To me, Marie Curie is a shining example of how the sky truly is the limit. That even if the odds happen to be against you, you can still excel. And if I’m ever going through a rough patch, especially with my studies, I can just look at her life and what she achieved and know that as long as I give it my all, it’s all going to be okay.
Image source: http://www.howitworksdaily.com/heroes-of-science-marie-curie/