Marie Curie, a Woman in the Pantheon

"From Warsaw to Paris", celebrating Marie Curie

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

While significant numbers of women in history are noted for their artistic, and humanitarian contributions and scientific discoveries, the operative word is ‘noted.‘ Often and sadly, women’s contributions have been systematically and repeatedly ignored in lieu of celebrated. Here, the focus is on celebration.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

I invite you, through these few photos and description of the exposition dedicated to Marie Curie, to also reflect on your family histories of great-grandmothers, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, cousins, etc.  Try to approach the feeling of what it must have been to be a woman during this era, and to celebrate your own women for their contributions completed and or challenges overcome. Then give a moment of gratitude or thought simply to honour and celebrate this brilliant woman for her contributions to the discoveries in physics,  chemistry, and medicine, as well as her applied practices in medicine.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

Presented in partnership with the Curie Museum, on the 150th celebration of Marie Curie’s birthday, the exhibition “Marie Curie, a woman in the Pantheon” makes available the ‘backstory’ — anecdotes of the private life — intimate and family world of Marie Curie, (1867 – 1934), as well as reveals a laboratory-related view showing instruments and captured moments of recognition. Rich archives, scientific instruments, period documents and personal effects bring the world of the famous scientist to the forefront, to permit viewers to feel the compelling call — intrinsic to her scientific discoveries.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

I am amongst those who think that science is something most beautiful (…). I don’t believe that the spirit of adventure is at risk of disappearing from our world. If I see something elementary around me, it is precisely that spirit of adventure that is ineradicable and akin to curiosity.”   ~Marie Curie

From Warsaw to Paris”, “The scientist with two Nobel Prizes”, “Rays at the service of medicine”, “An illustrious woman” … Conceived as a narrative, the exhibition unfolds in a prologue followed by five thematic chapters, revealing every aspect of her life and her journey to posterity. Inspired figure, woman of science, mother, teacher … “Our ambition is to reflect the plural personality of Marie Curie, to commemorate the legend of science but also the woman behind the myth

~ Renaud Huynh, Director, Curie Museum/ Exposition curator.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie; The Dream Becomes Reality

Marie’s parents were teachers who believed in gender equality and a general well-rounded approach to well-being including exercising the body mind and spirit. They encouraged all levels of education and introduced the benefits of appreciation of nature and art. Marie continued to be true to her heritage in using both names after marriage.  She taught her daughters the Polish language and educated them through visits to Poland to experience their heritage.

Marie surmounted extraordinary challenges to become the brilliant inspiration, wife, mother, teacher, and scientist that she was. Amongst them included the loss of her mother from tuberculosis at ten, then being unable to attend a university in her native Poland as a woman. She faced ongoing challenges of poverty as a student in Paris. Yet she completed studies with remarkable success and then continued post-graduate studies in physics and mathematics on a scholarship.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie, (P. Curie row 1 3rd from left)

Barriers continued and she carried on. Her husband, the love of her life and key collaborator in her work, died in a road accident, having been run over by a carriage. Instead of retiring, she went on to achieve her second Nobel prize in 1911. Marie Curie died in 1934, of aplastic anemia aged 66, in France. The dangers from exposure to radiation were unknown during the course of her scientific research and in the course of her radiological work at field hospitals during World War I.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

The writing indicates that – even in ‘the honoring,’ Marie is referred to as continuing her husbands legacy, even though each carried the entire vision and worked in tandem to realize their dream. Indeed, it seems they were ‘soulmates’ sharing a vision, yet be woman or man, Marie Curie’s achievements in science were extraordinary: she was the first person, to receive a Nobel prize in two different sciences:  first, awarded for physics in 1903 then chemistry in 1911. She was the first woman to be interred in the Pantheon in 1995.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

Documents attest to the unusual and extraordinary place in science to which Marie arose. a notation described Marie as the only scientist truly incorruptible.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

A delegation of scholars award her the gold medal of the American College of Radiology. Particularly Amazing, is that Marie’s achievements blossomed during a time when women largely were considered insignificant when unrelated to home and children and were considered immaterial for any positions of importance or noteworthy for individuality.

Imagine this delegation of American scientists during the age for a moment. Another image, at the moment of placing the medal around her neck, revealed more of the scholars who seemed genuinely attentive. Perhaps the ceremony was too long, they became bored or restless. One only can infer an opinion regarding the emotions at the time.

Yet, for a moment, focus on the men in the image; imagine the era. They are scholars, men, competitive even with one another in their fields. Can you feel or perceive, through their body language or expressions in the image, the sentiments of these individuals?  I can identify those characteristics of genuine interest, as well as perhaps arrogance, envy, appreciation, disdain, disinterest, reverence, … Can you?

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

This image was three short years prior to the unbeknownst forthcoming end of her life.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

Sixty years after her death, Marie Curie, at last, was recognized by the French state and she, the first woman, and Pierre, (not shown) were interred in the Panthéon. It is here in the crypt of the vault VIII, where Marie and Pierre Curie’s remains were laid to rest in positions of honor.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

Sadly yet thankfully, she is recognized as one of the greatest scientists of her time, now the most famous scientist in the world, she leaves behind a priceless scientific and moral legacy.

Life undeniably is intrinsically polemic, it seems helpful to remember, that choice in the focus always rests in the present moment. This link is offered to encourage your curiosity and to ignite your interest. Explore, expand your awareness of other women of science before the 20th century.

“From Warsaw to Paris”, celebrating Marie Curie

Celebrating the memory of Marie Curie, within the walls of the Pantheon, was obvious. A monument honoring the collective memory of Great Men, it is a particularly symbolic place for Marie Curie – first woman to be entered. Through her, it is all women who work for research and for science who must feel honored. ”

~ Philippe Bélaval, president Centre des monuments nationaux