Frederic and Irene Joliot-Curie


Frederic and Irene Joliot-Curie
(1900-1958) (1897-1956)

French physicists who made the discovery of artificial radioactivity, for which they were jointly awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
Irene was the daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie and began work at her mother's Radium Institute 1921. In 1926 she married Frederic, a pupil of her mother's, and they began a long and fruitful collaboration. In 1934 they found that certain elements exposed to radiation themselves become radioactive.

Irene Curie was born and educated in Paris, becoming professor at the Sorbonne 1937. In 1946 she became director of the Radium Institute. She died of leukaemia caused by overexposure to radioactivity.
Frederic Joliot was born in Paris and graduated from the Ecole Superieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielle. He joined the Radium Institute 1925. In 1937 he became professor of nuclear physics at the College de France. He succeeded his wife as director of the Radium Institute 1956.
Together the Joliot-Curies worked on radioactivity and the transmutation of elements. In 1934, while bombarding light elements with alpha particles, they noticed that although proton production stopped when the alpha particle bombardment stopped, another form of radiation continued. The alpha particles had produced an isotope of phosphorus not found in nature. This isotope was radioactive and was decaying through beta-decay.

 


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