Marie Sklodowska Curie was born on this day in 1867. She was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris. She was born Maria Salomea Sklodowska in Warsaw, in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. She studied at Warsaw’s clandestine Floating University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her older sister Bronislawa to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. She shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre Curie and with physicist Henri Becquerel. She won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Her achievements included a theory of radioactivity (a term that she coined), techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, and the discovery of two elements, polonium and radium. Under her direction, the world’s first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms, using radioactive isotopes. She founded the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw, which remain major centres of medical research today. During World War I, she established the first military field radiological centres. While a French citizen, Marie Sklodowska Curie (she used both surnames) never lost her sense of Polish identity. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element that she discovered polonium, which she first isolated in 1898 – after her native country. Curie died in 1934 at the sanatorium of Sancellemoz (Haute-Savoie), France, due to aplastic anemia brought on by exposure to radiation – mainly, it seems, during her World War I service in mobile X-ray units created by her.
Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, FRS was born on this date in 1888. He was an Indian physicist whose ground breaking work in the field of light scattering earned him the 1930 Nobel Prize for Physics. He discovered that, when light traverses a transparent material, some of the deflected light changes in wavelength. This phenomenon is now called Raman scattering and is the result of the Raman effect. In 1954, he was honoured with the highest civilian award in India, the Bharat Ratna.
Albert Camus was born on this date in 1913. He was a French Nobel Prize winning author, journalist, and philosopher. His views contributed to the rise of the philosophy known as absurdism. He wrote in his essay “The Rebel” that his whole life was devoted to opposing the philosophy of nihilism while still delving deeply into individual freedom. Camus did not consider himself to be an existentialist despite usually being classified as one, even during his own lifetime. In an interview in 1945, Camus rejected any ideological associations: “No, I am not an existentialist. Sartre and I are always surprised to see our names linked…”. Camus was born in Algeria to a Pied-Noir family, and studied at the University of Algiers. In 1949, Camus founded the Group for International Liaisons within the Revolutionary Union Movement after his split with Garry Davis’s Citizens of the World movement. The formation of this group, according to Camus, was intended to “denounce two ideologies found in both the USSR and the USA” regarding their idolatry of technology. Camus was awarded the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature “for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times”.