Dialogue with Marie Curie

Alan: “Hi, Marie, can you tell us your early childhood?  What was your life like when you were young?”

Marie: “I had a happy childhood till 10 years old when my mother died of tuberculosis. I was the youngest of 5 children of my parents.  Life became more difficult as my father need to take care of the family by himself.  I then attended a boarding school and graduated as top student.”

Alan: “May I ask how you became so interested in science?”

Marie: “My father taught high school math. & physics. I may have inherited the interest from him. I also interested in the belief that science’s ability to know everything (Auguste Comte’s positivism). It is the desire to know the truth that motivated me to study science.”

Alan: “How do you get into University to study science?  I understand you were almost 24 years old when you started your college life.  What happened?”

Marie: “I struggled against difficult circumstances in Poland with strong determination to achieve a scientific life.  I did well in high school but women were not at that time admitted to Polish Universities, I had to work for nearly 8 years as a governess during the best years of my youth, not only to earn the money to be able to go to Paris, but also help to pay my elder sister to go there first.  When the opportunity finally came, I went to Paris and worked far into the night in my student-quarters garret and virtually lived on bread and butter and tea.  I was behind in age compared with other classmates there so I do not want to waste any time.  I devoted any possible time to study the subjects that I really had passion of & even rent a quiet room in attic with no heat in the winter that chilled me to the bone.”

Alan: “Your heroic determination in pursuing science really motivate me to study what I have passion in physics & mathematics.  I failed my English subject in 3 consecutively years in last year of high school examination back in H.K. that left me no chance to study in the universities in H.K.  I attended a technical school in evening & day in order to better prepared me to go to a university that I dream of.  I got very disappointed when I learnt that my required subjects of entrance examination were not taken at the same year even I passed my English subject in the 4th year. It ruled out the possibilities for me to study college or university in H.K.  But there was an opportunity for me to study oversea when I was close to 23rd years old, I took my study very seriously & it was also partially motivated by your spirit in overcoming difficulties & passion of studies what you were interested in.”

Maria: “I was still a young women, not even French, finished my undergraduate program in 2 years with first in Physics & 2nd in Mathematics.”

Alan: “You really did very well in school, beating all the ablest young French men & women of the year. I was also able to finish my undergraduate program in 2 years & graduate as the top student in physics of my year.  I was finally able to catch up what I was behind in H.K. & graduated in Physics at a age of not quite 25th years old.  I was able to do that because you are my role model at that time & I devoted most of my available time in studies. However, I lived in rooms did have heat in Ohio & I ate more than bread. :  )  I still needed to conserve my money for my studies. I remembered I ate mostly fried chicken in the first semester, basically for all lunches & dinners to get the most economical value while filling my stomach.  I really did not mind at that time as I was so much enjoying my studies, even it was in a remote area far away from my family in H.K.”

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Dialogue with Marie Curie

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