The Curies

After reading this section you will be able to do the following:

  • Discuss why Marie Curie earned the recognition of being awarded two Nobel Prizes.
  • Describe what the Curies discovered.

Who were the Curies?

 An image of Marie and Pierre CurieOther scientists hard at work discovering radioactive elements were Polish scientist Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie, a French scientist. While working in France at the time of Becquerel’s discovery, they became very interested in his work. They, too, suspected that a uranium ore, known as pitchblende, contained other radioactive elements. The Curies started looking for these other elements, and in 1898 they discovered another radioactive element in pitchblende. They named it 'polonium' in honor of Marie Curie’s native homeland. Later that same year, the Curie’s discovered another radioactive element which they named radium. Both polonium and radium were more radioactive than uranium.

For their work on radioactivity, the Curies were awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics. In 1910, Marie Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry for her discoveries of radium and polonium, thus becoming the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes. Since these discoveries, many other radioactive elements have been discovered or produced. Today many artificial radioactive materials are produced and put to use in various ways ranging from medical to industrial. We will continue to talk about these in the following pages.


  1. Marie and Pierre Curie advanced the study of radiation and discovered the radioactive materials radium and polonium.