Marie Curie was without a doubt one of the most eminent of the 20th century’s scientists and to this day the only person who has won two Nobel prizes in different fields. She not only massively advanced our understanding of radioactivity, but she also gave two new elements to science. But, as we shall see, she paid a hideously high personal price for her discoveries.
Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867 as Maria Salomea Sklodowska. She was the youngest of five children born to parents who were both respected teachers. Her family had not fared well due to the volatile political situation that prevailed in Poland at the time.
The country had been forcibly divided in the late 18th century between Austria, Prussia and Russia, and Polish patriots including Curie’s parents and grandparents had been rebelling against this ever since. But the price of rebellion was high, and the Sklodowska family had lost both wealth and position because of their activism.