Irène Joliot-Curie and Artificial Radioactivity

Irene and Marie Curie

Irene and Marie Curie

On September 12, 1897, French Physicist and Nobel Laureate Irène Joliot-Curie was born. She was the daughter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie and the wife of Frédéric Joliot-Curie, with whoom she jointly was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935 for their discovery of artificial radioactivity.

Irene Curie was born in Paris and received a decent and classical education before her parents noticed her talents in mathematics and were willing to provide more challenges to Irene, who then received lessons in science by scholars like Paul Langevin. Irene Curie was admitted to the Collège Sévigné in central Paris in 1912 and also attended the Faculty of Science at the Sorbonne, but unfortunately, the first World War interrupted her studies. During the war, Irene Curie moved out of the city but joined her mother who had established mobile hospitals with x-ray equipment.

Irene Curie continued her studies later at the Radium Institute in Paris and wrote her thesis about alpha rays of polonium which had previously discovered by her parents. After Curie had received her doctorate, she met her future husband Frédéric Joliot whom she worked together with on atomic nuclei. They indeed identified both the positron and the neutron, but failed to realize the significance of their result, which later Carl David Anderson and James Chadwick did.

In 1934 the Joliot-Curies worked on the task to turn an element into another and created radioactive nitrogen from boron and radioactive isotopes of phosphorus from aluminum and silicon from magnesium. Their efforts led to the abilits to create radioactive materials quickly, cheaply and plentifully. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for their achievement and became famous. Irene Curie was appointed a professorship at the Faculty of Science.

Sadly, Irene Juliot-Curie had been accidentally exposed to polonium when a sealed capsule of the element exploded on her laboratory bench in 1946 and she had been diagnosed with lukemia later on. Despite her illness, the scientist continued her remarkable work. She passed away on 17 March 1956.

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