Sunday, October 14, 2007
By Richard E. Noble
Manya Sklodovska was just another dumb Polack; one of those inferior Slavic types who would have been executed or worked to death if Adolf Hitler had his druthers a century later. I found out about Manya by way of a second hand bookstore where I found this tattered worn copy of her life, written by her daughter. This book is no “Mommy Dearest”. This book written by a daughter about her Mother is inspirational.
Manya had such a propensity to read books as a young girl that her school-teacher parents tried to keep them away from her. Manya was self-sacrificing, an attribute that is much disparaged today. She sacrificed her own educational opportunities to work as a governess and put her siblings through school. When she finally did get her opportunity to learn, she worked so hard and skimped so, even on food in order to buy books that she nearly succumbed in her own ardent efforts.
She was pursued by a quiet, passionate young man, a student of science who was amazed by Manya’s scientific understanding. She also excelled in Math. They had a wonderful and lasting relationship until his death in a terrible shocking tragedy. Together, the two of them working with scanty funds in an unheated shed made a discovery that won them the Nobel Prize on December 10th, 1903. In December of 1911 she won her second Nobel Prize - this time in chemistry. Twenty-four years later, in the same hall in Sweden, another of her daughters, Irene won the same award.
During World War I she adapted the discovery of Roentgen, the X-ray, to a Red Cross vehicle and along with her daughter drove across battlefields servicing field hospital surgeons in their attempts to save the wounded. She twice refused the cross of the Legion of Honor claiming that she was only a soldier doing her duty.
She was the first female professor, and the first female head of a science department at the Sorbonne. She established the first institute of science in her native Poland. The list of her accomplishments goes on and on. She is without doubt one of the most amazing woman that I have ever read about. Every time that I look at a picture of this great woman, I see in her eyes another not so great dumb Polack, my grand-mother, and it makes me proud.
This book is entitled simply “Madame Curie” and it was written by one of her daughters, Eve Cure. In my opinion, this is a must-read for any young girl today. Don’t miss it.