Marie Curie – Later Life

Later life: The Curie’s research was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During World War One Curie helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines. The International Red Cross made her head of its radiological service and she held training courses for medical orderlies and doctors in the new techniques.

Despite her success, Marie continued to face great opposition from male scientists in France, and she never received significant financial benefits from her work. By the late 1920s her health was beginning to deteriorate. Marie Curie died aged 66 on July 4, 1934, killed by aplastic anemia, caused by exposure to high-energy radiation from her research. The Curies’ eldest daughter Irene was herself a scientist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Her contribution to physics had been immense, not only in her own work, the importance of which had been demonstrated by the award to her of two Nobel Prizes, but because of her influence on subsequent generations of nuclear physicists and chemists. Marie Curie, together with Irène Joliot-Curie, wrote the entry on radium for the 13th edition (1926) of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

In 1995 Marie Curie’s ashes were enshrined in the Panthéon in Paris; she was the first woman to receive this honour for her own achievements. Her office and laboratory in the Curie Pavilion of the Radium Institute are preserved as the Curie Museum.

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