April 26, 2020

7 Inspirational Quotes by Marie Curie

Marie Skล‚odowska Curie (November 7, 1867 – July 4, 1934) was a physicist and chemist of Polish upbringing and, subsequently, French citizenship. She was a pioneer in the field of radioactivity, the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes, and the first female professor at the University of Paris. Her achievements include the creation of a theory of radioactivity (a term coined by her), techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two new elements, polonium and radium. It was also under her personal direction that the world's first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms ("cancers"), using radioactive isotopes. [source: wikipedia]

7 Inspirational Quotes by Marie Curie
  1. Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

  2. Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.

  3. One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done.

  4. All my life through, the new sights of Nature made me rejoice like a child.

  5. A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician: he is also a child confronting natural phenomena that impress him as though they were fairy tales.

  6. I am one of those who think like Nobel, that humanity will draw more good than evil from new discoveries.

  7. There are sadistic scientists who hurry to hunt down errors instead of establishing the truth.

You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.


Humanity needs practical men and women, who get the most out of their work, and, without forgetting the general good, safeguard their own interests. But humanity also needs dreamers, for whom the disinterested development of an enterprise is so captivating that it becomes impossible for them to devote their care to their own material profit. Without doubt, these dreamers do not deserve wealth, because they do not desire it. Even so, a well-organized society should assure to such workers the efficient means of accomplishing their task, in a life freed from material care and freely consecrated to research.

Two new elements in Mendelyev's periodic table
[source: Radioactivity.eu.com]

In November 1897, Marie Curie decided to conduct systematic research on the ‘uranic rays’ found in a number of elements, compounds and minerals. She measured their ability to electrify the air surrounding them with a piezoelectric quartz electrometer invented by Pierre and Jacques Curie, capable of measuring very low values of electric intensity.

Marie Curie carried out these measurements and discovered that thorium also emits these ‘Becquerel rays’, and that uranium minerals such as pitchblende and chalcolite have infinitely more intense emissions that pure uranium (*).

Marie Curie then proposed the hypothesis that the property of emitting these rays was a more general property of matter, which she named ‘radioactivity’. She added that the origin of the phenomenon must be inside the atom, as radioactivity occurs on a submolecular level.

Pierre Curie immediately understood the importance of these observations and together with his wife discovered two previously unknown elements in 1898: polonium and radium, present in trace amounts in pitchblende.

From several tonnes of pitchblende residue, Marie Curie was able to isolate pure radium, an element which is a million times more radioactive than uranium. Radium salts also possess a remarkable quality: they glow in the dark, are warm to the touch and seem to give off an inexhaustible supply of heat.

In 1902, Mendeleyev’s periodic table still had gaps. Marie Curie was able to show that radium filled in one of these pieces in the jigsaw, and demonstrated that it had an atomic mass of 226.

In 1903, Pierre et Marie Curie were rewarded by a Nobel Prize shared with Henri Becquerel (in 1911 Marie Curie was again rewarded by a second Nobel Prize).

The new element, the radium, became an extraordinary tool for the early exploration of the structure of matter and ๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿผ also for its therapeutical applications. ๐Ÿ‘ˆ
[source: NCBI: US National Library of Medicine]

At the end of 19th century a few fundamental discoveries changed diagnostic and therapeutic possibilities in medicine and, particularly, in oncology: in 1895 Wilhelm Roentgen from Germany discovered X-rays, in 1886 Henry Becquerel described the phenomenon of radioactivity of uranium, and in 1898 Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium and polonium. In 1903 the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded jointly to Henry Becquerel, and Marie and Pierre Curie for the discovery of radioactivity. Maria Skล‚odowska-Curie received the 1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her discovery of radium and polonium (Fig. 1).

The discovery of X-rays by Roentgen was a turning point in diagnostics. It enabled precise evaluation of internal organs hitherto completely inaccessible for investigation. First, it became possible to visualize the bones (one of the first X-rays in history was an X-ray of the hand of Roentgen’s wife; Fig. 2); then, after introduction of various contrast media (barium meal, iodine preparations) other organs could also be visualized: the alimentary tract, biliary routes, and blood vessels.

Natural radioactivity, discovered by Becquerel and Marie and Pierre Curie at the same time, led to new therapeutic and diagnostic methods in medicine. First clinical applications of radioactive substances were undertaken very soon after. As early as 1899 Tage Sjoergren from Sweden reported the first case of a malignant tumor of the skin cured by use of radioactive source application.

We can see also dynamic progress in another field of radiotherapy i.e. brachytherapy. Greek term “brachy” means “near”—in this case the radioactive source is in direct contact with the tissue of the tumor. The first report of effectively treatment with this method of basal cell carcinoma of the skin was published in 1904 (Goldberg and London). In 1904 a diagram showing the effect of a magnetic field on the radium rays was published by Cleaves. He gives the following commentary “The beta rays are bent strongly to the right, the gamma rays as are the x-rays are not bent at all, and the alpha rays are bent very little to the left.” Earlier Pierre Curie demonstrated that at least two different kinds of rays were emitted from radioactive substances. Radium, discovered by Marie-Skล‚odowska-Curie, was first used in brachytherapy. At the very beginning it was placed directly on the surface of the tumor or intracavitary (in cancer of the vagina or uterus). Very soon, as early as the 1910s, doctors started to introduce the radioactive source interstitially, i.e. deep into the tumor. Cancers of the breast, prostate, esophagus, and brain were among the first treated by this method. Because of a lack of proper dosimetry and the inevitability of direct contact with the radioactive material, the method was very dangerous for the doctors who used it. The method was substantially improved by use of radioactive isotopes with the afterloading method. Cesium and iridium are new isotopes in use. Modern computer software enables very precise elaboration of effective and, simultaneously, safe dosage; this is particularly important with increasing use of high doses (HDR—high dose rate) in brachytherapy. Brachytherapy is successfully used for treatment of cancer of the genitourinary tract, head and neck cancers, and carcinoma of the penis. In many cases its effectiveness is similar to radical but sometimes mutilating surgery. In advanced incurable cancer, brachytherapy can be used for palliation, giving relief to the patient and offering some comfort during the last months of his/her life. New diagnostic and interventional methods in endoscopy and radiology enable the use of various applicators without the need for difficult and dangerous surgical intervention, particularly for patients in poor condition. Brachytherapy is very effective in palliative treatment of lung cancer, esophageal cancer, and tumor of alimentary tract.

A relatively new technique based on the discoveries of Marie Skล‚odowska-Curie is nuclear medicine which uses substances labeled with radioisotopes introduced into the organs of the patient for imaging of the tumors. Progress in nuclear medicine was possible after the Second World War when, after the discoveries of Frederic and Irene Joliot-Curie from 1930s, it became possible to produce artificial radioisotopes in amounts suitable for use in medicine (Fig. 3).

Radioactive isotopes of such elements as iodine, indium, or technetium with relatively short half-lives can be used in both diagnosis and therapy. They are being introduced into organs in combination with other substances which selectively bind to various tissues or tissue fluids. Reading of the distribution of the radioactivity by use of gamma-cameras, which substituted popular Geiger counters, enables location of the cancer tissue or detection of the direction of lymphatic flow. This is very often helpful to the oncologist when choosing the proper tactics for treatment. Enormous progress has been made during recent years in the construction of devices giving a more precise view of the organs investigated, for example SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) or, even better, PET (positron emission tomography). A new device with increasing possibilities for the surgeon is an intraoperative detector of gamma radiation. The probe enables more precise location of tumor tissue previously labeled with an isotope and makes possible more radical procedures or, on the other hand, enables evaluation of the inoperability of the tumor. A new possibility for surgical removal of tumors is RIGS—radioimmunoguided surgery.

The activity of the Marie Skล‚odowska-Curie Memorial Cancer Center includes not only the treatment of the patients but, as Marie Curie wanted, research also. Every clinical specialist should keep in mind that progress in clinical medicine and every-day medical practice cannot exist without progress in research. Marie Curie said: “Therapeutic activity in such new field requires strong base which is constituted by physical and chemistry studies of new substances, if the base does not exist, theory becomes just empiricism and routine use of indiscriminately popular methods in which there are, sometimes fundamental, mistakes” (Fig. 5).

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