As you may notice, the Curies were a very successful ‘Nobel Prize family’. Marie Curie herself was awarded two Nobel Prizes.
Marie and Pierre Curie and the Discovery of Polonium and Radium
by Nanny Fröman *
Marie and Pierre Curie’s pioneering research was again brought to mind when on April 20 1995, their bodies were taken from their place of burial at Sceaux, just outside Paris, and in a solemn ceremony were laid to rest under the mighty dome of the Panthéon. Marie Curie thus became the first woman to be accorded this mark of honour on her own merit. One woman, Sophie Berthelot, admittedly already rested there but in the capacity of wife of the chemist Marcelin Berthelot (1827-1907).
It was François Mitterrand who, before ending his fourteen-year-long presidency, took this initiative, as he said “in order to finally respect the equality of women and men before the law and in reality” (“pour respecter enfin …l’égalité des femmes et des hommes dans le droit comme dans les faits”). In point of fact – as the press pointed out – this initiative was symbolic three times over. Marie Curie was a woman, she was an immigrant and she had to a high degree helped increase the prestige of France in the scientific world.
At the end of the 19th century, a number of discoveries were made in physics which paved the way for the breakthrough of modern physics and led to the revolutionary technical development that is continually changing our daily lives.
Around 1886, Heinrich Hertz demonstrated experimentally the existence of radio waves. It is said that Hertz only smiled incredulously when anyone predicted that his waves would one day be sent round the earth. Hertz died in 1894 at the early age of 37. In September 1895, Guglielmo Marconi sent the first radio signal over a distance of 1.5 km. In 1901 he spanned the Atlantic. Hertz did not live long enough to experience the far-reaching positive effects of his great discovery, nor of course did he have to see it abused in bad television programs. It is hard to predict the consequences of new discoveries in physics.