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Pierre Curie

Updated on May 14, 2013

Pierre Curie, Radium's Co-Discoverer

French physicist, chemist, scientist Pierre Curie (b.15 May 1859 - d.19 April 1906) who is pioneered in the study of radioactivity, magnetism, piezoelectricity, crystallography and also a 1903 Nobel prize winner which he shared with his wife Marie Curie when they discover the elements of radium and polonium as radioactive substances. His work are recorded numerous publications in the Comptes Rendus de l'Academie des Sciences, the Journal de Physique and the Annales de Physique et Chimie and awarded the Davy Medal of the Royal Society of London in 1903 (jointly with his wife) and in 1905 he was elected to the Academy of Sciences.

Pierre Curie Early Life | Later Life

A Closer Look.

Pierre Curie was born May 15, 1859 in Paris France. His father is a general medical practitioner which was later on became his first mentor. He received his early education at home before entering the Faculty of Sciences at the Sorbonne. He gained his Licenciateship in Physics in 1878 and continued as a demonstrator in the physics laboratory until 1882 when he was placed in charge of all practical work in the Physics and Industrial Chemistry Schools. In 1895 he obtained his Doctor of Science degree and was appointed Professor of Physics. He was promoted to Professor in the Faculty of Sciences in 1900, and in 1904 he became Titular Professor.

In his early studies on crystallography, together with his brother Jacques, Curie discovered piezoelectric effects. Later, he advanced theories of symmetry with regard to certain physical phenomena and turned his attention to magnetism. He showed that the magnetic properties of a given substance change at a certain temperature - this temperature is now known as the Curie point. To assist in his experiments he constructed several delicate pieces of apparatus - balances, electrometers, piezoelectric crystals, etc.

Curie's studies of radioactive substances were made together with his wife, whom he married in 1895. They were achieved under conditions of much hardship - barely adequate laboratory facilities and under the stress of having to do much teaching in order to earn their livelihood. They announced the discovery of radium and polonium by fractionation of pitchblende in 1898 and later they did much to elucidate the properties of radium and its transformation products. Their work in this era formed the basis for much of the subsequent research in nuclear physics and chemistry. Together they were awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 on account of their study into the spontaneous radiation discovered by Becquerel, who was awarded the other half of the Prize.

His wife was formerly Marie Sklodowska, daughter of a secondary-school teacher at Warsaw, Poland. One daughter, Irene, married Frederic Joliot and they were joint recipients of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935. The younger daughter, Eve, married the American diplomat H. R. Labouisse. They have both taken lively interest in social problems, and as Director of the United Nations' Children's Fund he received on its behalf the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1965. She is the author of a famous biography of her mother, Madame Curie (Gallimard, Paris, 1938), translated into several languages.

Pierre was killed in a street accident in Paris on April 19, 1906.

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Pierre Curie Art

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Is it right to probe so deeply into Nature's secrets? The question must here be raised whether it will benefit mankind, or whether the knowledge will be harmful.

- Pierre Curie

Pierre Curie Books on The Spotlight

Book Description

Marie and Pierre Curie remain two of the most important scientists of the 20th century. Their pioneering work in the study of radioactivity led to the discovery of the elements radium and polonium. Later, they identified how atoms give off, or radiate, energy which would be the foundation for modern nuclear physics.

But for as successful as they were as scientific partners, theirs was also a love story. Coming from vastly different backgrounds, Marie grew up in politically repressed Poland and suffered the loss of a sister and her mother as a young girl. Pierre enjoyed an idyllic childhood and was educated at home by his brother and father. Although their friendship was initially based on their shared passion for science and research, it soon grew into a romantic love that would lead them to a personal relationship and professional partnership that would literally change the world.

from the Publisher's Weekly

Starred Review. Brian, author of works on Einstein and Pulitzer, fills a significant gap in the Curie bookshelf with this engaging book that follows five generations of the Sklodowska-Curie-Joliot family. Beginning before Marie Sklodowska and Pierre Curie meet, Brian details their courtship and 11-year marriage, bringing the reader to the Curie dinner table and into the converted garden shed (replete with a leaking roof) where the Curies' work on polonium and radium transformed physics and won them two Nobel prizes. After Pierre's early death, Marie soldiered on for their children, Irene and Eve, and for their work, organizing X-ray equipment distribution during World War I and training numerous women to work at the Radium Institute. Irene, a nurse and wartime ambulance driver, began work in the laboratory with her mother after the war, later joining fellow assistant Frederic Joliot in a marital and career partnership similar to that of her parents'. Their joint Nobel came in 1935, a year after Marie's death. Eve, a journalist, wrote a best-selling biography of her mother and, during WWII, became a battlefield reporter. The fifth generation of this extraordinary family, Helene and Pierre Joliot-Curie, became eminent scientists, and the scientific tradition continues into the sixth generation. Brian's book illuminates 100 years of scientific history in its political and social contexts through the lives of this remarkable family. Extremely well-done and highly recommended.

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Both Pierre and Marie were enshrined in the crypt of the Panthéon in Paris in April 1995.

Both Pierre and Marie were enshrined in the crypt of the Panthéon in Paris in April 1995.
Both Pierre and Marie were enshrined in the crypt of the Panthéon in Paris in April 1995.

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