"On the Discovery of Radium" Curie, Marie (1921)
"On the Discovery of Radium"
Marie Curie (1921)
SITE SUMMARY: Curie, a two-time Nobel Prize recipient and physics professor at the Sorbonne (a college of the University of Paris), presented this speech at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, on May 14, 1921. The speech, preserved in print as no. 2 of Vassar's Ellen S. Richards Monographs series, centers on what Curie called "the somewhat peculiar conditions of the discovery of radium" and her view that "the scientific history of radium is beautiful." The speech is provided online at the Gifts of Speech Web site, by Liz Linton, site director; and electronic resources and serials librarian in Cochran Library, Sweet Briar College, Virginia.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
- Describe, in steps, the investigations leading up to the discovery of radium. Who were two other people associated with the work?
- Why did she say "radium is no more a baby?" What, did she say, is the special interest of radium? What makes it important? In which ways? What is particularly important?
- Name other elements sharing similar properties with radium.
- What is compared to uranium and to gold?
- To what does the "theory of transformation" refer? What is carnotite? Define emanations. What did she say about radioactivity?
- What about radium has been studied closely, and has to do with light? How?
- Curie mentioned her hope that her discovery would be used for medical purposes. Visit the Web sites: On the Positive Side of Uranium and Radioactivity (of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences), Uranium Information Centre—Resource Papers and Briefing Papers, Medical Physics Journal Online, Public Health Statement for Radium (from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry), Radiation Information Resources, and Health Physics Society—Radiation Fact Sheets, Ask An Expert Questions and Answers, etc. (Their urls are in cited in the Related Internet Sites section below.) Find, state, and describe some of today's beneficial uses of radioactive substances. Cite and quote from scientific papers on the subject, found via these sites, to support your choices.
- What did Curie say people must not forget? What is this proof of? State how she said it scientifically, and in a poetic way. Give two examples, one for the scientific, and one for the poetic, from the world you know or the world in general. State the connection between each example and what she said.
- What is the "vast field" Curie mentioned? How did she connect it to her audience? How could you have a connection?
- Choose a quotation by Curie from each of these Web sites: American Institute of Physics—Marie Curie, Marie Curie: Polish-French Chemist and Physicist, Science in Poland: Maria Sklodowska-Curie 1867–1934, Marie Curie—Chemist, and Nobel Prize Speech (1911) by Marie Curie. (Their urls are cited in the Related Internet Sites section below, or in this book's chapter featuring Curie's document: "Rays Emitted By Compounds of Uranium and of Thorium.") Cite the original sources of the quotes you chose, if possible, and/or the Web sites where you found the quotations. Apply the quotations to a science or sciences in today's society, showing how Curie's insight is relevant beyond her time.
RELATED INTERNET SITE(S)
American Institute of Physics—Marie Curie
This site features the Curie quotations that begin "The life of a great scientist"; and "A great discovery." There is also a link to an AIP online exhibit: "Marie Curie and the Science of Radioactivity."
Marie Curie: Polish-French Chemist and Physicist
This biography, provided by a noted educational materials publisher, was written as an introduction for students, has a Curie quotation starting, "A scientist in his laboratory is not a mere technician" and features a metaphor that a young person can relate to.
Public Health Statement for Radium (1990)
This statement is by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Atlanta, Georgia. Eight contents parts include the questions: What is radium? How might I be exposed to radium? and How can radium affect my health?
Uranium Information Centre—Resource Papers and Briefing Papers
At this Australia-based site, click the link for Educational Resources with resource papers (in PDF format), including "What is Uranium?" and "The Physics of Uranium." Click also the link for Briefing Papers, with papers on Nuclear Power and Health, Nuclear Power for Electricity, Climate Change, General (e.g., the Nuclear Debate), etc.
On the Positive Side of Uranium and Radioactivity
http://www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/uranium.htm (or search for niehs logo via www.nih.gov)
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences cites some of the beneficial uses of radioactive substances today.
Medical Physics Journal Online
This site, for the journal of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, has the current issue, archives, and a list of upcoming articles. Links are provided to summaries called abstracts, and sometimes full texts for non-subscribing visitors. Many are scholarly articles, but some are suitable to nonscientists (e.g., browse the archives for the 1999 volume 26, the September 15, 1999 issue, for "The Symposium Commemorating the Centennial of the Discovery of Radium by Marie Sklowdowska-Curie"; "Marie Curie and Nuclear Medicine"; "Marie and Pierre Curie and Radium: History, Mystery and Discovery"; and "A Simple Model For Examining Issues in Radiotherapy Optimization" (in the issue for July 15, 1999). (Some articles are in PDF format.)
Radiation Information and Resources
Via one working link, the Biological Sciences Department of North Illinois University provides information on Radium (History and Basic Information), with a note on Curie.
Health Physics Society—Radiation Fact Sheets, Ask an Expert Q's and A's, etc.
http://www.aps.org (click links)
This organization, dedicated to promoting the practice of radiation safety, features fact sheets via a radiation facts link, with subjects including types of radiation, exposure, and risk. Also provided are a link to questions and answers on subjects including benefits of radiation, radiation basics, education, regulations, and standards.