Last week I launched a 3 part series ‘Lessons we can learn from….’ To celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th. In the second of the series I take a look at Marie Curie. Winner of two Nobel Prizes for her work on the therapeutic benefits of Radium, she frequently tops polls as the most inspirational woman ever to have lived. Here are 5 lessons you can learn from Marie Curie.
Don’t let obstacles get in your way
Curie grew up in Poland in the second half of the 19th century when Polish people were expected to be subservient to Russia. Polish women were not allowed to attend University and her father could not afford for her to train to become a teacher after her mother and one of her sisters died within 2 years of each other. Later, much of the work she carried out with her husband Pierre was in miserable conditions. Her husband Pierre was then tragically killed in a carriage accident in 1903 leaving her with two children. She continued to carry out her work after his death, also taking on some of his duties at the university whilst bringing up her children.
Have an insatiable appetite for learning
So insatiable was Marie’s thirst for knowledge that for a while she was a member of an ‘undercover’ university in Poland. Whilst working as a governess she studied in her own time, until she was able to attend university herself in Paris. At the Sorbonne she attained degrees in Maths and Physics and later her Doctorate in Physics.
Have passion for your work
She was so passionate about her love of science and it was this passion that enabled her to continue her work and studies to overcome adverse conditions throughout her life. She believed in the pursuit of science for science’s sake and retained her enthusiasm throughout her life. As a scientist she never patented her work, leaving the way open for other scientists to continue her work during her life and after her death. During WWI she was so passionate about the therapeutic benefits of her discoveries that, with the help of her daughter Irene she helped equip ambulances with X-ray machines to identify fractures, shrapnel and bullets, which she herself drove to the front line.
Have determination to succeed
She overcame many of the barriers in place to women at that time. After leaving school, Marie worked as a governess, a job she hated, until her younger sister was able to support herself. Determined to attend university she was forced to move to Paris. Science was in every way a man’s world then. Curie overcame the obstacles women faced and became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne, rising to Professor of Physics in the Faculty of General Sciences and Director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institue of the University of Paris. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, sharing the Prize for Physics with her husband and colleague Becquerel in 1903. She became the first person ever to be awarded the Nobel Prize twice when she was awarded the Prize for Chemistry in 1911.
Marie inspired her own daughter Irene to take up Science. Irene continued in her mother’s footsteps working as a nuclear scientist, receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry with her husband in 1935 for synthesis of new radioactive elements. Marie’s work contiunues to inspire us today.
Determined to pursue her great passion, science, Marie Curie overcame many obstacles along the way to become a Nobel Prize Winner and recipient of numerous other awards and honorary degrees. She was truly an inspirational woman.
Who are your inspirational women past and present? Who would you like your daughters to look up to as role models? Who do you look up to? Share your comments with me below.