Zagórski, Zbigniew Paweł; Kornacka, Maria
March 2012
Kwartalnik Historii Nauki i Techniki;2012, Vol. 57 Issue 1, p39
Academic Journal
The article presents from the perspective of one hundred years the work of Maria Curie-Skłodowska, which in many cases was ahead of the state of knowledge of the time. It opened new horizons and for this reason we made many digressions. The fact of awarding her the Nobel Prize twice is a sensation enough to present the values of careful activity of the Nobel Prize Committee that emphasizes the importance of Maria's achievements. A significant element of Maria Skłodowska-Curie's achievements was still mysterious character of the radiation in her time, and only chemical approach made it possible to organise the phenomena and explain the origin of the radiation. The essence of the research was an arduous separation of components following the track of growing radiation of successive fractions of preparations. This research was a start of the technology of educement of dispersed elements in great mass of materials. We underline the paramount role of the chemical research Maria Sktodowska conducted while still in Warsaw in the laboratories of the Museum of Industry and Agriculture under the guidance of an excellent chemist Józef Jerzy Boguski. Her research in Paris was the origin of the semi-commercial scale in chemistry and setting aside a special shed outside the university building was the beginning of the institutes that now function beyond universities and are key element of scientific and technical progress. Technology of splitting developed by Maria Skłodowska-Curie was applied also by other radiochemists, e.g. By Otto Hahn. Lively movement in radiochemistry of her lifetime resulted in Maria's disputes with e.g. German chemist Marckwald, who questioned the originality of polonium. The scientific disputes like this one Maria won triumphantly although in several others she had to accept opponents' argument, as in the case of radon. Her experiments were planned with utmost rationality as it was with the rejection of the hypothesis saying that radioactivity was transferred from the outer space or from the sun. A great part of Maria Skiodowska-Curie's work was connected with biology which was demonstrated by describing in mathematical terms, for the first time in the history of radiobiology, nonexistent at that time, of the phenomenon of inactivation of bacteria by ionizing radiation. We emphasize difficult conditions for the health of the radiochemists of the time but we don't find any proof that there was any influence of ionizing radiation on Maria's health. She must have absorbed much greater doses of radiation during her heroic work in the mobile radiological surgery at the front of the 1st World War. We don't think it's appropriate to speculate rashly about contamination with alpha emitters. Unfortunately, due to her family's protest it was impossible to collect samples of remains before their relocation to the Pantheon in Paris.


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