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Today Marks the Day….

Today’s Google Doodle reminds us that today we celebrate Marie Curie‘s 144th birthday.  Is her name not ringing a bell?  Think radioactivity….  Not only was Curie a groundbreaking physicist and chemist, but her accomplishments are also noteworthy because she was a woman scientist working in the early 20th century.  Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1903 and is the only woman to ever win two (not to mention they are in separate fields).  Among her scientific achievements, this Polish woman was also the first female professor at the University of Paris.

Marie Curie put forward a theory for radioactivity and developed techniques for identifying isotopes.  Later in her career, she discovered two elements, the first of which she named “Polonium” after her native country.  After establishing the Curie Institute in Paris and Warsaw, she inspired the first scientific research exploring the medical application of radiation to treat tumors.  She shared her first Nobel Prize with her husband, as her daughter then did with her own husband many years later.  Science runs in her DNA to be sure!

Despite celebrating her birthday today, we should remember that she only died a mere 80 years ago.  Only 100 years ago we were just beginning to understand the radioactivity of the elements on earth.  The evolution of science is really an incredible thing to witness.  Each day, grad students, professors, and research technicians return to lab benches or computer monitors or field sites and search for answers.  The small bits of information that they gather feeds into an ever-growing scientific body of knowledge.

Thanks to Google for reminding us to take a few moments today to celebrate a brave and dynamic woman who contributed to the past and future accomplishments that shape our world. While this dedication is worthy of praise, it really takes a visionary innovator to completely challenge accepted theories or even synthesize the information that is gathered to create something meaningful.  The Curie family did this but across disciplines and fields to provide groundbreaking perspectives.  While it seems that progress is slow, it was only 100 years ago that women did not teach science in universities around the world.  Who knows what social or environmental injustices might be eradicated by science and social change in the next 100.

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