Marie Curie: A Life Illuminated by Intelligence, Determination and Courage

Marie_Curie-Laboratory before 1937 author unknown
A picture of Marie Curie’s laboratory where she did much of her work on radium.

When we read about famous historical figures their accomplishments seem obvious, their acclaim assured. Closer examination often reveals a different story. Marie Curie, for example, almost didn’t get her first Nobel Prize. Even after winning the prize, she and her husband struggled to find appropriate laboratory space in which to conduct their experiments. And, though Marie Curie was the first woman to hold a professorship at the Sorbonne, she was only given that position after her husband’s became vacant because of his death.

Most modern observers marvel at Marie Curie’s intelligence and insight. A review of the obstacles she overcame suggest that perhaps her most influential traits might have been determination and courage. Marie had faith in her own abilities, but stronger than that was a conviction that her work was important.

Albert Einstein once described Marie Curie as someone who was totally indifferent to fame. She was a scientist. She did hard, grinding labor. She extracted radium and polonium from pitchblende; the yield of this extraction was in minute quantities. The exquisitely slow pace of the process did not deter Marie. She endured physical consequences of her effort–radiation burns and fatigue–without complaint.

When World War I broke out, Marie Curie used her scientific knowledge to save lives. She designed portable x-ray units and traveled to the front so she could offer her services to wounded soldiers. Marie Curie did this as she did everything else in her life, with courage, intelligence and a lack of regard for herself.

As we read about Marie Curie, and other accomplished figures in history, we marvel at what they achieved. Often, however, the better part of their story may be the road they traveled to realize their achievements. The strength of character displayed in some cases–certainly in Marie Curie’s case–is certainly as noteworthy as the honors earned.

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Two books issued by Rhythm Prism are dedicated to Marie Curie’s life. One, Marie Curie: Radium, Polonium, is designed for a general audience and the other, Marie Curie: Science Pioneer,  addresses the interests of children.  Material in both books overlaps, although specialized information about Polonium and Radium are contained in Marie Curie: Radium, Polonium.

Marie and Pierre Curie discovered two elements on the periodic table, radium and polonium. One of the difficulties they had in working with polonium was the fact that it kept “disappearing”.  What they did not understand at the time was that radioactive elements decay at a regular rate, called its half life.  Below is a chart (which appears in the Rhythm Prism book Marie Curie: Radium, Polonium) that shows the process of thorium decay.  The chart was the work of Ernest Rutherford, who was himself a Nobel Laureate.

thorium chart

Marie Curie: Radium, Polonium and Marie Curie: Pioneer in Science are written in very basic language.  If you’re interested in gaining a rudimentary understanding of radioactivity and learning about Marie Curie, both books will serve that purpose.

General Interest Book

marie and atom 5 cover smash site

Children’s Book (with study guide)

BeFunky_Marie for site

 Another book that introduces more information about radioactivity is the Rhythm Prism publication, What Is Radioactivity? The Basics.  This book is offered in  6 by 9 and  8 1/2 by 11 workbook version. Reading level is adult or mature student.

what is radioactivity front  cover 6 by 9 print site

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Tagore Gallery and Blog: Featuring Original Work by Tagore and Information About His Esthetic and Life

Pictures of Rabindranath Tagore, his family and matters related to his life will be added to this page gradually.  These pictures are offered for the reader’s enjoyment.  It is hoped that more people in the West will become familiar with the work of this writer, artist, philosopher.

Tagore's_family public domain tag
Rabindranath Tagore posed with his son, his two daughters and his daughter-in-law for this picture in 1909. From the book, Rabindranath Tagore
Tagore with Astronomer Karel Hujer 1935 public domain
Here Tagore is pictured with the astronomer Karel Hujer. Hujer was a Czech who settled in the US after fleeing from the Nazis in the 1930s. An avowed pacifist, Hujer was an admirer of Gandhi and Tagore. In 1949, after both Gandhi and Tagore were deceased, he organized the World Pacifist Meetings in India. The photo was taken in 1935, by an unknown author; it is in the public domain.
Rabindranath_Tagore_Man_and_Woman3
Tagore’s painting, entitled Man and Woman. Tagore started painting after the age of 60. His brief career as a painter is discussed in the book, Rabindranath Tagore.
Einstein_and_Tagore_Berlin_14_July_1930 public domain tag
Tagore and Albert Einstein posed for this picture when they were in Berlin, 1930. From the book, Rabindranath Tagore
Santiniketan tagore gandhi 1940
This picture of Tagore and Gandhi was taken in 1940 at Santiniketan, India. Santiniketan was the site of a university Tagore had established years before. Tagore died a year after this picture was taken; Gandhi was assassinated in 1948
Rabindranath Tagore Untitled Dancing Girl scaled
Tagore once said of his career as a painter that he was “secretly drawn” to work that came to him “least easily”. Perhaps one of his challenges was the fact that he did not see colors the way most people do. Tagore had difficulty distinguishing reds from greens. Some observers theorize that this color confusion may have explained some of the artist’s dramatic color schemes. However, with a man as complex as Rabindranath Tagore, this explanation likely oversimplifies the creative process. This picture is labeled “Untitled” and is described as being a portrait of a dancing girl. The date of the painting is unknown; it was uploaded from Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.
Tagore On Education
Rabindranath_Tagore_with_Mahatma_Gandhi_and_Kasturba_Gandhi_in_Shantiniketan

Rabindranath Tagore was a philosopher, artist, poet, playwright, musician and social reformer.  In 1913, he became the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Despite this distinction, Tagore never earned a formal academic degree.  When referring to his own education, Tagore spoke about  ‘freedom’,  not ‘discipline’.  He described his childhood home, which inspired his point of view,  as one in which “freedom in the power of our language, freedom of imagination in our  literature.. ” prevailed.  Rote learning and routinized instruction were stifling and counterproductive, in his view.

Tagore believed that education was an organic process in which the individual responded to the environment. Much in his philosophy of education resembled that of another Nobel Laureate, Marie Curie.  Both Nobel Prize winners placed strong emphasis on nature.  Both insisted on the importance of physical exercise.  And both believed that exposure to brilliant minds and brilliant work would elevate, not frustrate, a child. Both were certain that bombarding a child with structured lessons was more likely to kill an appetite for learning than to stimulate it. They believed that acquiring knowledge should be as effortless as acquiring language is for a toddler.

While Rabindranath Tagore and Marie Curie  believed that children should live in a harmonious relationship with nature, Tagore carried the theme of harmony further. He believed it was a function of education to foster harmony between people. He wanted children to be taught arts, especially music, because he thought that would enable them to develop sympathy for others. He thought that education should emphasize the progress of nations and not focus on wars and territorial conquests.

Rabindranath Tagore did not simply aspire to educational ideals: he gave them life. In 1901 he founded a school, Patha Bhavana, which embodied his principles. After he won the Nobel Prize, he invested in his school and expanded it into a university. That campus is now the site of one of the most prestigious universities in India, Visva-Bharati.

Were Rabindranath Tagore’s ideas about education misguided? Many people who work in education today apparently believe so. Increased emphasis on standardized learning and objective testing seems to be proof of that. Schools today are  laboratories in which competing theories of education are tested. As the experiment with today’s children proceeds, so will the dialogue about their future continue.

Artistic_mud_house_at_shantiniketan
For more on Rabindranath Tagore visit our page: Rabindranath Tagore
 

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Quotes:

It is still difficult for me to realize that I have no absolute claim to keep up a close relationship with things, merely because I have gathered them together“. From: My Reminiscences, 1917

He (my father) also knew that truth, if strayed from, can be found again, but a forced or blind acceptance of it from the outside effectually bars the way in”. From: My Reminiscences, 1917

“The west seems to take a pride in thinking that it is subduing nature; as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement of things.” From : Sadhana : The Realization of Life, 1916