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Maria and Pierre Curie: First Meeting, Love and Marriage

Read about Maria's studies in Paris

Pierre CurieMaria received a grant from the Society for the Encouragement of National Industry to study magnetic properties of various steels. She began her research in prof. Lippmann's laboratory. She was in a search for better and less cumbersome equipment for a limited space she had to deal with to conduct her experiments.

Luckily, Joseph Kowalski, Polish professor from Fribourg University, was visiting Paris with his wife. Maria knew them from the time when she was a governess in Szczuki. They met again in Paris, Maria confined her problems, he thought that Pierre Curie may find a help. The next day Maria met Pierre Curie; they immediately developed an attraction. Pierre could not believe that he met a woman who is on equal intellectual level than he is. He used to believe that "women of genius are rare". Pierre was also curious about Maria's foreign roots, her patriotism and culture. Maria listened to his advices and his expertise in crystallography, magnetism and piezoleelectricity with interest. During this first conversation Pierre asked Marie whether she would remain in France. She replied with persistence in her voice that of course she would go back to Poland since this is her duty for an occupied countryland.

Pierre Curie came from a very interesting family of Alsatian origin (boarder region between France and Germany). His father and grandfather were medical doctors by profession but liberal intellectuals and scientists by choice. Pierre and Jacques, his older brother, were very smart, very curious and contributed to several scientific breakthroughs. Pierre was home-schooled, since he was brilliant, but unable to learn in school surroundings. Pierre had sworn never to get married; he devoted his life to science completely.

Pierre Curie with his parents: Eugene and Sophieand brother Jacques - on the photograph above.

Pierre and Jacques discovered a phenomenon of "piezoelectricity", which means that when crystals were deformed or compressed, they generated electricity. The brothers demonstrated also an inverse effect - that means that an electric field could cause a compression of crystals. Later this phenomenon was used to measure miniscule quantities of electricity and it helped Marie to find and separate radium and polonium from uranium ore called pitchblende.

Pierre Curie studied magnetic properties of the materials for his doctorial thesis. He discovered, so called "Curie law" in paramagnetic materials, that means that the magnetization of the material is (approximately) directly proportional to an applied magnetic field. He also discovered that heat changes the magnetic properties of the materials. This temperature at which a ferromagnetic material becomes paramagnetic is called a Curie temperature.

So, during their first meeting, Pierre Curie was already a renowned scientist, eight years older than Marie, while Marie Sklodowska, after several obstacles (being a woman from occupied country and a foreigner in France) was just starting her promising scientific career.

After this first encounter they stayed in touch. Pierre sent Maria his publications, visited her in the laboratory, asked for a permission to visit her in her place. During one of these visits he suggested that Maria meet his parents who lived in a little house in Sceaux. Then Before Maria went to Poland in summer 1894, Pierre asked her to become his wife, since he worried that she might not come back. He even considered staying in Poland with her in case she would decide not to come back. Happily she came to France back in October.

Pierre was so worried that Maria may not marry him that he even went to Bronya, Maria's older sister and invite her to visit his parents with Maria. In no time Pierre won the absolution from Sklodowski's family which is retained in a letter from Joseph, Maria's brother sent on July, 1895.

Pierre and Maria's wedding was unconventional, just right for these two unconventional people. There was no white dress, gold ring, religious ceremony. Maria wore a navy-blue woollen suit on a top of blue blouse with blue stripes. The ceremony took place in a city hall in Sceaux and then in a little garden of Pierre's parents house. Bronya with Casimir and prof. Sklodowski with Hela and also a couple of university friends were present. Their honey moon was a bicycle trip on the charming roads of the Île-de-France.

Read more about Maria' and Pierre Curie work in the next article: Discovery of Polonium and Radium.

Baba Jaga Corner: Visit Jaga Polish Culture Website at:


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