Born on 12 September 1897 in Paris, France, Irene Curie was the daughter of the famous scientist, Marie Curie. In 1914, she graduated from the College Sevigne in Gagny and went on to attend the University of Paris. That same year World War I required her to leave her studies temporarily to serve as a nurse radiographer until 1917. In 1918, Curie returned to the University of Paris and she received her Ph.D. in 1925 for her research on alpha particles. Curie and Jean Frederic Joliot met while working with her mother at the Radium Institute and were married in 1926. The couple worked together studying natural and artificial radioactivity and the transmutation of elements.
Irene Curie's accomplishments and contributions to the advancement of nuclear physics were enormous. In 1934, the Joliot-Curie team generated the first artificial radioactivity from stable elements. By using alpha particles to bombard aluminum foil and boron in separate experiments, they produced a radioactive phosphorous from the aluminum and a radioactive form of nitrogen from the boron. For this work the husband and wife team were jointly awarded the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "in recognition of their synthesis of new radioactive elements."
In 1936, Curie was appointed Undersecretary of State for Scientific Research. She became the Director of the Radium Institute in 1946. From 1946 to 1951, Curie served as a member of the French Atomic Energy Commission with her husband and assisted in establishing France's first atomic pile. She was excused of her services in 1951 because of her association with the French Communist party, which her husband founded.
After battling with leukemia that was brought on by exposure to radioactive
elements throughout her career, Irene Joliot-Curie died in Paris on
17 March 1956.
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