Posted by Tom Foremski - September 13, 2013
This is well worth seeing. It's best described as a live historic TED talk from 1915 Paris. Marie Skłodowska-Curie was the first to win two Nobel prizes. The performance by Susan Marie Frontczak is extraordinary with critics saying that she embodies the scientist in looks and in speech.
Madame Curie was the first European woman to earn a doctorate in the sciences; the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize (for the discovery of radioactivity); the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne; and the first person to receive a second Nobel Prize (a feat not to be repeated for another 50 years). Audiences witness the origins of scientific discoveries we now take for granted. They re-live the remarkable collaboration between husband and wife, Pierre and Marie, companion scientists.
This program honors the ethic of scientific altruism. Einstein said Marie Curie was "the only person to be uncorrupted by fame." In today's age of patents and litigation, the audience learns that the Curies declined to patent their methods, refused to bend their discoveries toward personal financial gain. Marie insisted that to profit from the discovery of radium would be "contrary to the scientific spirit."
This program honors the wife and mother, who felt more daunted by the chemistry of the kitchen than of the laboratory. As a single mother, Marie raised her two daughters from ages 16 months and 8 years, after the tragic death of her husband, Pierre. And it honors Manya's Polish heritage — much neglected not only now, but in her own life, to her own dismay. This program brings to light many of Marie's lesser-known contributions, both social and scientific — and the obstacles she faced along the way.
Marie Curie was, in turn, nervous and shy in public, obsessive about measurement, in denial of the dangers of working with radioactive materials, proud and possessive of her discoveries, yet generous to the extreme with the products of her work.
Earlier this year I visited the small museum dedicated to her life in Warsaw in the Old Town, close to where she grew up.
I love this photo of the top people in science in 1927 -Institut International de Physique Solvay in Leopold Park. She's seated next to Plank, Lorenz and Einstein. Marie Curie certainly knew about the challenges of being a woman in a man's world. It's interesting to see that Silicon Valley continues to be a man's world. Scientific progress is not on the same fast track as cultural progress.
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