From childhood she was remarkable for her prodigious memory, and at the age of 16 she won a gold medal on completion of her secondary education at the Russian lycee. Because her father, a teacher of mathematics and physics, lost his savings through bad investment, she had to take work as a teacher and, at the same time, took part clandestinely in the nationalist free university, reading in Polish to women workers. At the age of 18 she took a post as governess, where she suffered an unhappy love affair. From her earnings she was able to finance her sister Bronis?awas medical studies in Paris, with the understanding that Bronis?awa would in turn later help her to get an education.
In 1891 Sk?odowska went to Paris and, now using the name Marie, began to follow the lectures of Paul Appel, Gabriel Lippmann, and Edmond Bouty at the Sorbonne. There she met physicists who were already well knownJean Perrin, Charles Maurain, and Aime Cotton. Sk?odowska worked far into the night in her student quarters garret and virtually lived on bread and butter and tea. She came first in the licence of physical sciences in 1893. She began to work in Lippmanns research laboratory and in 1894 was placed second in the licence of mathematical sciences. It was in the spring of that year that she met Pierre Curie.
Their marriage (July 25, 1895) marked the start of a partnership that was soon to achieve results of world significance, in particular the discovery of polonium (so called by Marie in honour of her native land) in the summer of 1898 and that of radium a few months later. Following Henri Becquerels discovery (1896) of a new phenomenon (which she later called radioactivity), Marie Curie, looking for a subject for a thesis, decided to find out if the property discovered in uranium was to be found in other matter. She discovered that this was true for thorium at the same time as G.C. Schmidt did.
Turning her attention to minerals, she found her interest drawn to pitchblende, a mineral whose activity, superior to that of pure uranium, could be explained only by the presence in the ore of small quantities of an unknown substance of very high activity. Pierre Curie then joined her in the work that she had undertaken to resolve this problem and that led to the discovery of the new elements, polonium and radium. While Pierre Curie devoted himself chiefly to the physical study of the new radiations, Marie Curie struggled to obtain pure radium in the metallic stateachieved with the help of the chemist Andre Louis Debierne, one of Pierre Curies pupils. On the results of this research, Marie Curie received her doctorate of science in June 1903 and, with Pierre, was awarded the Davy Medal of the Royal Society. Also in 1903 they shared with Becquerel the Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of radioactivity.
The birth of her two daughters, Irene and eve, in 1897 and 1904 did not interrupt Maries intensive scientific work. She was appointed lecturer in physics at the ecole Normale Superieure for girls in Sevres (1900) and introduced there a method of teaching based on experimental demonstrations. In December 1904 she was appointed chief assistant in the laboratory directed by Pierre Curie.The sudden death of Pierre Curie (April 19, 1906) was a bitter blow to Marie Curie, but it was also a decisive turning point in her career henceforth she was to devote all her energy to completing alone the scientific work that they had undertaken. On May 13, 1906, she was appointed to the professorship that had been left vacant on her husbands death, she was the first woman to teach in the Sorbonne. In 1908 she became titular professor, and in 1910 her fundamental treatise on radioactivity was published. In 1911 she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, for the isolation of pure radium. In 1914 she saw the completion of the building of the laboratories of the Radium Institute (Institut du Radium) at the University of Paris.