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Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Unable to attend university in Poland, Maria Sklodowska moved to Paris, studied physics at the Sorbonne and, soon after graduation, met and married French physicist Pierre Curie. Determined to earn her PhD, Marie set out to study the mysterious rays given off by the element uranium. She soon discovered that the element thorium also gave off these rays, which Marie dubbed "radioactivity.” More surprising, she found that uranium ore contained two new radioactive elements: polonium, named for her native Poland, and radium. Radium’s wondrous ability to glow in the dark inspired a worldwide craze — a rush of radium-laced products that promised to cure everything from impotence to hair loss. What few people realized — and the Curies were reluctant to admit — was the great harm this magical element could do.
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