Maria Skłodowska was born in Warsaw, Poland, on 7 November 1867, the fifth and youngest child of well-known teachers Bronisława and Władysław Skłodowski. Maria's older siblings were Zofia (born 1862), Józef (1863), Bronisława (1865), and Helena (1866).
The deaths of her mother and sister, according to Robert William Reid, caused Maria to give up Catholicism and become agnostic.When she was ten years old, Maria began attending the boarding school that her mother had operated while she was well; next Maria attended a gymnasium for girls, from which she graduated on 12 June 1883. She spent the following year in the countryside with her father's relatives, and the next with her father in Warsaw, where she did some tutoring. Maria made an agreement with her sister, Bronisława,that she would give her financial assistance during Bronisława's medical studies in Paris, in exchange for similar assistance two years later. In connection with this, Maria took a position as governess: first with a lawyer's family in Kraków; then for two years in Ciechanów with a landed family, the Żorawskis, who were relatives of her father. While working for the latter family, she fell inlove with their son, Kazimierz Żorawski, which was reciprocated by this future eminent mathematician. His parents, however, rejected the idea of his marrying the penniless relative, and Kazimierz was unable to oppose them. Maria lost her position as governess. She found another with the Fuchs family in Sopot, on the Baltic Sea coast, where she spent the next year, all the while financiallyassisting her sister.
Maria's loss of the relationship with Żorawski was tragic for both. He soon earned a doctorate and pursued an academic career as a mathematician, becoming a professor and rector of Kraków University and president of the Warsaw Society of Learning. Still, as an old man and a mathematics professor at the Warsaw Polytechnic, he would sit contemplatively before the statue of MariaSkłodowska which had been erected in 1935 before the Radium Institute that she had founded in 1932.
Skłodowska studied during the day and tutored evenings, barely earning her keep. In 1893 she was awarded a degree in physics and began work in an industrial laboratory at Lippman's. Meanwhile she continued studying at the Sorbonne, and in 1894, earned a degree in mathematics.
That same year, PierreCurie entered her life. He was an instructor at the School of Physics and Chemistry, the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris (ESPCI). Skłodowska had begun her scientific career in Paris with an investigation of the magnetic properties of various steels; it was their mutual interest in magnetism that drew Skłodowska and Curie together. Her departure for thesummer to Warsaw only enhanced their mutual feelings for each other. She still was laboring under the illusion that she would be able to return to Poland and work in her chosen field of study. When she was denied a place at Kraków University merely because she was a woman, however, she returned to Paris. Almost a year later, in July 1895, she and Pierre Curie married, and thereafter the twophysicists hardly ever left their laboratory. They shared two hobbies, long bicycle trips and journeys abroad, which brought them even closer. Maria had found a new love, a partner, and scientific collaborator upon whom she could depend.
Born in Paris, France, Pierre was educated by his father, and in his early teens showed a strong aptitude for mathematics and geometry. By the ageof 18 he had completed the equivalent of a higher degree, but did not proceed immediately to a doctorate due to lack of money. Instead he worked as a laboratory instructor.
In 1880, Pierre and his older brother Jacques demonstrated that an electric potential was generated when crystals were compressed, i.e. piezoelectricity. Shortly afterwards, in 1881, they demonstrated the reverse effect:...