Asking questions about the world around us is how many scientific theories begin, just like when Isaac Newton asked why the apple fell downwards and he ended up discovering gravity!
Marie Curie (1867–1934) was a Polish scientist whose groundbreaking research on radioactivity won her two Nobel Prizes, and led to a revolutionary new treatment for cancer. Marie lived at a time when women’s career opportunities were restricted, so her achievements were even more remarkable. Discover more about this determined and dedicated lady, and use our printable resources below to test your findings.
The Curie family won five Nobel Prizes between them. Marie Curie won for Physics (1903) and Chemistry (1911). Her husband Pierre won for Physics (1903), Marie and Pierre’s daughter Irene won for Chemistry (1935), and, finally, their son-in-law (Henry Labouisse Jr.) was director of UNICEF when it won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965.
Marie Curie’s research papers are still highly radioactive – and will be for at least 1,500 years. They are stored in lead-lined boxes at the National Library of France.
Favourite Marie Curie Quotes
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”
“I am among those who think that science has great beauty.”
A Short Biography of Marie Curie
Marie Curie was born Maria Sklodowska in 1867 in Warsaw, Poland – the youngest of five children. Her father was a science teacher and her mother a headmistress. Maria excelled at school, but Poland was under Russian rule – the Polish language was banned and women could not go to university.
Marie’s family fell on hard times when her father lost his job. Then her sister Zofia died from typhus, and, when Maria was just 10, her mother died from tuberculosis. Maria became a governess to support herself, but she made a pact with her sister Bronislawa – Maria would pay for Bronislawa’s studies at the University of Paris and Bronislawa would then support Maria, too.
When Bronislawa became a doctor (unusual for women of the time), 24-year-old Maria moved to Paris to study, working as a tutor at night to get by. From then on, she used the French spelling of her name – Marie.
Marie gained a Physics degree in 1893 and began working in a laboratory. But she kept studying, and gained a Maths degree the following year. As a woman, she couldn’t work at a Polish university, so she remained in France. She began working at the same laboratory as Pierre Curie. The pair married in 1895 and went on to have two children together – Irene (1897) and Eve (1904). Marie became a physics teacher and the couple continued their research at night.
Marie was attracted to the work of two scientists in particular – Roentgen (who discovered X-rays) and Becquerel (who discovered rays given off by uranium). Marie noticed that a mineral called pitchblende (containing uranium ore) was more radioactive than pure uranium. She realised another element must be present. She and Pierre spent many hours grinding, dissolving, filtering and crystallising pitchblende and eventually isolated two highly radioactive substances – one they called polonium (after Marie’s homeland), the other radium (the Latin for ‘ray’).
Marie was a woman of many ‘firsts’. When she, Pierre and Becquerel were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on radioactivity, Marie was the first woman to win the award. That same year she became the first woman in France to gain a PhD. Three years later, Pierre was tragically run over by a carriage and killed. Despite her grief, Marie took over his role as Professor of Physics (the first woman teacher at the University of Paris). Then in 1911, she won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for creating a way to measure radioactivity –the first person (and only woman) to win the award in two disciplines.
When doctors discovered radiation could kill cancer cells, new research centres opened under Marie’s direction. During the First World War, Marie also developed mobile X-ray units that she drove to field hospitals, to find the fractures, bullets and shrapnel in soldiers’ wounds. The trucks were known as ‘petites Curies’ (little Curies).
After the war, Marie continued her research and teaching work. She also founded Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw, which are still major cancer research centres today. Marie died in 1934 from leukemia caused by overexposure to radiation. She was 66. In 1995, she and Pierre were reburied in the Panthéon in Paris (a tomb of honour) – fittingly, the first woman to be given this accolade.
Our Marie Curie Resources
There are a still a lot fewer women working in science and engineering compared to men. Can the kids use their persuasive writing skills and an eye-catching design to create a poster encouraging more girls to consider a science or engineering career?
Marie Curie famously became the first woman to be awarded a Noble Prize, but can the children design their own medal to commemorate her outstanding achievements?
Marie Curie changed the world with her scientific discoveries, and also achieved many firsts for women. Can the children write about what they think girls today owe her?
Here's a colouring page featuring the remarkable scientist Marie Curie, who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity.
Our comprehension worksheets are a great way to learn a few facts about a famous person - can the kids answer the questions about Marie Curie at the end of the text?
Our Marie Curie factsheet is a great introduction to this remarkable woman - interesting just to read, or use with some of our Marie Curie worksheets and activities.
Here's a worksheet to get the kids thinking of some good open questions - can they imagine they are a talk show host and able to interview Marie Curie?
Ask the children to write a newspaper report on the incredible life and work of Marie Curie using this fun worksheet.
There's room to draw a picture on this Marie Curie notebooking page, and lots of lines to write down facts and information too.
This Marie Curie notebooking page comes with lines throughout, perfect for older children to write down all the information and facts they have learned about her.
Our simple posters are perfect for introducing famous people to younger children. Print this simple poster of Marie Curie and use in displays and topic work.
"I am among those who think that science has great beauty." Print this stunning poster featuring a quote by Marie Curie and display in science laboratories and classrooms - for the best results, print using the borderless setting on your printer.
This Marie Curie quote worksheet features a quote from the famous scientist and asks the children to write about what it means and to write it in their own words too.
Our Marie Curie story paper is perfect for younger children who might be doing some research about this remarkable woman. The pages come in lined or handwriting, each with a simple picture to colour in.
Here's a story paper that's ideal for older children who are learning about Marie Curie, with a picture of her and plenty of room to write information.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Can the children mark her achievement on this timeline, along with some of the other discoveries and important events in her life?
Have some fun with this simple Marie Curie worksheet (available in black and white or colour). The kids will need to find out some facts by doing a little research, and then think about what they would talk to Marie Curie about if they were to meet.
Our Marie Curie writing page is designed for younger children to store what they have learned about this great woman, and comes in either colour or black and white.