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Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934), also known as the first (and often only) female scientist of history that anyone can name, was a Polish scientist famous for her work in physics and chemistry, and being a pioneer of studies into radioactivity. She developed techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, discovered two elements, polonium and radium, and even coined the term ‘radioactivity’. She also established mobile X-Ray machines for use during World War I. Marie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize (and then did it again for good measure).
Growing up in Russian-occupied Warsaw, Marie Sklodowska was not allowed to apply to university because she was a girl. She and her sister Bronya defied Russian authorities to continue their education in the Flying University, an underground pro-Polish educational programme which operated out of people’s private houses. Marie then worked as a tutor and a governess to help pay for Bronya to get an official degree in Paris, on the understanding that Bronya would do the same for her. Years later, Marie herself reached Paris, to study physics, chemistry and mathematics at the Sorbonne. She met her future husband Pierre Curie after graduation, when a friend made arrangements for her to use some of his spare laboratory space.