Saturday, 8 March 2014

WISE: Marie Curie

This month’s ‘Woman in Science & Engineering’ is Marie Curie. 

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland on the 7th November 1867. In 1891, she went to Paris to study physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne and here she met her husband. Pierre Curie, professor at the School of Physics. They married in 1895. 

Together they worked on investigating radioactivity, they had been building on the work of the German physicist, Roentgen, and the French physicist, Becquerel. By 1898, the Curies had announces the discovery of a new chemical element, polonium. They had then announced the discovery of radium towards the end of the year. The Curies and Becquerel had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903. 

Marie Curie’s husband had died in 1906 when he was knocked down and killed by a carriage. Yet, she still carried on with her work. Curie took over her husband’s teaching post which made her become the first female teacher at the Sorbonne, and she devoted herself to the work that her and her husband had started together. Curie was awarded another Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911

The research that both husband and wife had done was crucial in the development of x-rays in surgery. During World War One, Marie Curie helped to equip the ambulances with x-rays and would then drive ambulances to the front line herself. She was made head of the radiological service by the International British Red Cross. She also held training courses for medical orderlies, and doctors in new techniques. 

Though Curie had a huge amount of success, she still faced oppression from male scientists in France and she had never received significant financial benefits from the work that she did. In the late 1920s, her health had started to deteriorate and on the 4th July 1934 she died from leukaemia. Her leukaemia had been caused by the fact that she had had exposure to high-energy radiation for her research. 

In 1948, which was the same year the National Health Service had been launched, a group of committee members from the Hampstead-based Marie Curie hospital decided to preserve Marie Curie’s name in the charitable medical field, just before the Hampstead-based Marie Curie Hospital was transferred over to the NHS. 

This just happened to be the beginning of the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation – a charity that is now dedicated to alleviating suffering from cancer – today known as the Marie Curie Cancer Care. 

After the donation of an engagement ring, to help raise funds for the charity, the very first appeal was then launched and had brought in a significant £4,000. By 1950, the ongoing appeal raised a massive £30,000 and only two years later the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation had managed to officially become a charity.

The charity had dedicated itself to several ideas which, at the time, were revolutionary and the Marie Curie Memorial Foundation had quickly established itself as a leader in the field of improving facilities for cancer patients. 

They had dedicated themselves to: 
Providing specialist homes for the care of cancer patients 
Providing nursing for patients at home 
Educating the public on the symptoms and the treatment of cancer 
Providing urgent welfare needs

Today though, the Marie Curie Cancer Care has a few different things that they are aiming for as well: 
Dedicating themselves to providing better and more care for patients and their families through the Marie Curie Nursing Services and its nine hospices. 
Is committed to carrying out research and innovation necessary to find out what the best possible care is and how to provide it. 
Ensuring that measures are in place to give people the choice of place for their life care and death through the Marie Curie Delivering Choice Programme. 
Is determined that the needs of the dying patients remain on the political agenda and will continue to campaign for patients to be able to die at their own homes in all four countries of the UK through its policy and public affairs work. 

Marie Curie has made a huge impact into the world of medicine in the time she was alive and is continuing to make the impact even as she is not here any more. Her work during World War One and the charity that is now set up in her name just shows what an amazing impact one person can have on one field. 

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