Sunday, September 13, 2015

Marie Sklodowska Curie

Another BBC programme (see also the post about gender identity) was a programme about Marie Sklodowska Curie.   I can't find a website for the programme, which is what happens when you don't make a good enough note about something!

Anyway, I knew something about her scientific discoveries and knew that she had died of the effects of radiation, although she lived longer than I thought.

But I knew nothing of the fact that the Nobel Committee in 1903 wanted to award a prize only to Pierre, her co-worker.   And nothing of the negative reactions to her relationship with Pierre Langevin - he was married, she was not (she was a widow, as Pierre had by this point been killed in a road accident), but she seems to have been the recipient of criticism.   I also did not know that she and her daughter had provided mobile X-ray units in World War One, and that this probably contributed to her death.

An internet search for information about her is interesting.  Some of the results are of course about the organisation Marie Curie, which works with people living with terminal illness.   A lot of the results about her do not seem to mention this sort of issue at all.

Two that do are Wikipedia, and this site from the Chemical Heritage Foundation, which sets her in the context of oral histories of other female chemists.  

A search of finds a lot about an EU fund for career researchers, named after her, and this interesting article in Le Courrier de Pologne, which reminds me that the programme referred to the transfer of her body to the Pantheon, in the 1990s.

The same search finds this English language article in the magazine 21st Century Science and Technology, the full version of which makes reference to the controversy over awarding the Nobel Prize to a woman.

A search of the English speaking Google for her, adding the word sexism, turns up:

This, from The Mary Sue, about the Academie Francaise des Sciences turning down her application for membership in 1911, and this from Wired;

And this, from The Community Alliance; 

And finally, there is a new film in production about her life

Beyond my linguistic skills, sadly, but which perhaps would turn something up, is a search for Polish language material.  I do know that the "l" in her name needs a bar across it but the technical term for this and the technical knowledge to do it are at the moment beyond me!

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