What did Marie Curie discover?

Great woman and scientist with countless awards, including 2 Nobel Prize winners, thanks to their remarkable research. Through this article, we invite you to learn more about what Marie Curie discovered.

Marie Curie

she was born in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, in the mid-19th century. She studied science in her hometown clandestinely, due to the gender segregation that existed at the time.

After completing her studies, being a woman and a scientist to the amazement of her fellow citizens, she decided to settle in Paris to extend her academic training.

Thereupon, she was attempting to get a job at the Sorbonne, the famous French University, but was unsuccessful. However, she was lucky enough to meet Pierre Curie, a French scientist already renowned in the Paris of those years.

He became her most faithful follower and companion both personally and scientifically. Marie Curie, thanks to her relentless thirst for study in the field of physics and chemistry, and with the support of her husband, would make several memorable discoveries that would change the world forever.

What did Marie Curie discover?

Marie invented a device that measured the weaker electrical currents generated by the ionization of air when in contact with uranium rays. She baptized them with the name of Radioactivity.

she used it very skillfully and specialized in its use, so that she was able to measure the amount of radioactivity emitted in each sample. She then began measuring the radioactivity of all the minerals she could see.

As she learned about and experimented with different minerals, she realized that all uranium compounds had radioactivity.

This did not influence the temperature or whether it was solid or just dust, but only the fact that it had uranium was already radioactive.

Conceptually, this discovery was one of her most significant in her research, as well as becoming her greatest legacy for the development of science.

Atomic model

The ongoing systematic studies of the various chemical compounds gave the surprising result that the intensity of the radiation did not depend on the compound studied, it only depended on the amount of uranium or thorium.

Chemical compounds of the same element often have very different chemical and physical properties: one uranium compound is a dark powder, another is a transparent yellow crystal, but the decisive factor for the radiation they emitted was only the amount of uranium they contained.

This led her to the conclusion that the emission of rays by uranium compounds is a property of the metal itself, that is, an atomic property of the element uranium.

That is, only in the presence of atoms can radioactivity be generated. This hypothesis refuted the previous hypothesis that atoms were indivisible.

It was a great and important discovery because little or nothing was known about atoms at the time, so adding a property to it or designating a new atomic model was very significant.

Polonium and radium

Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre, managed to isolate these elements in an extremely high quantity, because if they had not discovered it, it was because it was in very little quantity in pitchblende (an impure variety of uranium). But the task was not easy, because there were more than 30 elements contained in it.

By the year 1898, they were able to discover not one, but two very powerful new elements: polonium, a name they gave in honor of Poland, Marie's homeland, and radium

Then, they both took a break, since due to her investigations, Marie showed severe symptoms of dizziness due to the presence of lightning, the result of intense exposure to radiation.

Marie Curie and radium

One of Marie Curie's contributions to science came when they came back eager to find the other element, for which they had to add 900 times the radioactive potency of uranium, thus requiring huge samples of the element.

That is how, on December 26, 1898, they discovered radium, a name derived from the word lightning.

This element contained extremely powerful radioactivity, as a result of which both Marie and Pierre were falling ill. For this reason, as previously stated, they decided to take a vacation in mid-1898, to rest and enjoy time with their family.

Already by the year 1902 they were able to prove the existence by preparing a decigram of pure radium and fixing its atomic weight.

Her fellow chemists accepted the existence of this miraculous element, and stopped using it for experimental purposes only. This is how the radium industry was born, since they already knew what this wonder represented for humanity. Radium, for example, could help with the battle against cancer.

These findings were disclosed and published with the fear of repeating what happened with the thorium work, which was attributed to Gerhard Carl Schmidt before the German Physical Society.

Marie Curie's invention

Marie's greatest invention was the first portable X-ray machine. It was a vehicle equipped with an X-ray machine and a development room with an electrical installation that ran with the car's fuel engine, and also had the capacity to produce the energy required to use said equipment.

This invention was of extraordinary help during the First World War, because the soldiers wounded in the fighting died before reaching the hospital due to the lack of a diagnosis of their injuries and traumas, which made it difficult to act quickly in case of extremely urgent surgeries.

With the help of the population, they equipped 20 cars called "Petit Curie" to help people. Her daughter Irene de Ella accompanied her in this arduous and exemplary task of helping the victims of the war.

After the war, Marie kept one of those cars, a product of her inventions, using it not only in France, but also in Belgium, Italy, countries where she organized courses for soldiers to learn about radioactivity.


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