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Physicist Marie Curie was buried in lead-lined coffin as her body remained severely radioactive

Thursday, 28/12/2023, 14:46 (GMT+7)

Marie Curie, who is known as the 'mother of modern physics' pioneering work in the field of radioactivity, was buried in lead-lined coffin after was extremely radioactive.

Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win the Nobel Prize twice, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two scientific fields.

However, she also had to suffer horrific consequences for her breakthroughs in the field of radioactivity.

Physicist Marie Curie was buried in lead-lined coffin as her body remained severely radioactive 1
Marie Curie pioneered the radiation field, opening the path for modern physics. Image Credit: Getty

Who Is Marie Curie?

Maria Salomea Skłodowska, later known as Marie Curie, was born on November 7, 1867, in Warsaw, Poland. 

She was the youngest of five children and grew up in a household that valued education and intellectual pursuits. 

Her father, Władysław Skłodowski, was a math and physics teacher, while her mother, Bronisława Skłodowska, was a pianist and singer.

Both of her parents instilled in her a love for learning and encouraged her to pursue her interests.

Physicist Marie Curie was buried in lead-lined coffin as her body remained severely radioactive 2
Marie Curie was born in 1867 in Poland and was encouraged by parents to pursue her interests. Image Credit: Getty

Curie's early education was mostly informal, as women were not allowed to attend universities in Poland at the time. However, she continued to study on her own and eventually moved to Paris in 1891 to further her education. 

She enrolled at the Sorbonne University to study physics, chemistry, and mathematics. 

Despite facing discrimination as a woman in a male-dominated field, Curie excelled in her studies and graduated with a degree in physics in 1893 and a degree in mathematics in 1894.

Marie Curie's Discoveries and Achievements

In 1896, the French physicist Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium salts emitted rays that were similar to X-rays. 

This discovery piqued Curie's interest, and she began conducting her experiments on uranium rays. 

Physicist Marie Curie was buried in lead-lined coffin as her body remained severely radioactive 3
Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium salts emitted rays similar to X-rays, leading to Marie Curie's experiments on uranium rays. Image Credit: Getty

She found that the intensity of these rays was proportional to the amount of uranium present, which led her to believe that radiation was a property of the element itself, rather than its chemical composition.

In 1898, Curie and her husband Pierre Curie, a fellow scientist, announced their discovery of two new elements - radium and polonium. They named polonium after Curie's native country, Poland, and radium for its intense radioactivity. 

Their discovery was a significant breakthrough in the field of science and earned them international recognition.

In 1903, Curie and her husband were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on radioactivity. This made Curie the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize. 

Physicist Marie Curie was buried in lead-lined coffin as her body remained severely radioactive 4
Marie Curie and her husband discovered radium and polonium in 1898, receiving international recognition. Image Credit: Getty

In 1911, she received her second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry, for her isolation of pure radium. 

To this day, she remains the only person to have won Nobel Prizes in two different scientific fields.

Marie Curie suffered serious consequences when prolonged radiation exposure

Marie Curie passed away in 1934 as exposed to high levels of radiation during her research and did not take proper precautions to protect herself. 

Her demise reason due to aplastic anemia, a condition caused by exposure to radiation.

Her body was so radioactive that it had to be buried in a lead-lined coffin. Before that, radiation also caused her to develop cataracts, leading to blindness.

Physicist Marie Curie was buried in lead-lined coffin as her body remained severely radioactive 5
Marie Curie passed away due to aplastic anemia in 1934. Image Credit: Getty

Even today, her body is still radioactive and is placed in a coffin with a 2.5cm thick layer of lead inside to prevent radiation from spreading to the surrounding environment.

In addition, her belongings such as laboratory notebooks, were deemed too dangerous to handle and were placed in lead-lined boxes.

Marie Curie's laboratory notebook is dubbed a "treasure" of world science, currently preserved in a lead box in the French National Library.

Physicist Marie Curie was buried in lead-lined coffin as her body remained severely radioactive 6
Her body was so radioactive she had to be buried in a lead-lined coffin. Image Credit: Getty

This laboratory notebook is considered an extremely dangerous item because it is contaminated with radioactive Radium 226, which has a half-life of up to 1,600 years. 

However, this amount of radiation will only decrease by half compared to the original, but not completely disappear.