Happy birthday, Marie Curie!

Today is the birthday of Marie Curie, who was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867. Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only person to win Nobels in two different sciences. She studied physics at the Sorbonne in Paris and worked in the lab of future Nobel laureate Gabriel Lippmann.

For her thesis, she decided to study a strange phenomenon discovered in 1896 by Henri Becquerel in uranium. In 1898 she discovered that thorium also exhibited this property, which she called radioactivity.

That same year, working with her husband Pierre Curie, Marie discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium. In 1903 Marie Curie earned her PhD—and the Nobel Prize in Physics, which she shared with her husband and Becquerel for their study of radioactivity.

Three years later Pierre died in a road accident. Marie succeeded him as professor of physics at the Sorbonne, becoming the first woman professor at the university.

In 1911 Curie was the lone winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the isolation of radium. For the rest of her career, Curie studied radioactive substances and their potential medical applications.

Unfortunately she did not know the health dangers of her research, and as a result, she died of leukemia in 1934. Her death came just months after her daughter Irène co-discovered new radioactive isotopes, work that would win her the Chemistry Nobel the following year.