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PIERRE CURIE (1859-1906)

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Originally appearing in Volume V07, Page 644 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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PIERRE CURIE (1859-1906), French physicist, was born in Paris on the 15th of May 1859, and was educated at the Sorbonne, where he subsequently became professor of physics. Although he had previously published meritorious researches on piezoelectricity, the magnetic properties of bodies at different temperatures, and other topics, he was chiefly known for his work on radium carried out jointly with his wife, Marie Sklodowska, who was born at Warsaw on the 7th of November 1867. After the discovery of the radioactive properties of uranium by Henri Becquerel in 1896, it was noticed that some minerals of uranium, such as pitchblende, were more active than the element itself, and this circumstance suggested that such minerals contained small quantities of some unknown substance or substances possessing radioactive properties in a very high degree. Acting on this surmise M. and Mme Curie subjected a large amount of pitchblende to a laborious process of fractionation, with the result that in 1898 they announced the existence in it of two highly radioactive substances, polonium and radium. In subsequent years they did much to elucidate the remarkable properties of these two substances, one of which, polonium, came to be regarded as one of the transformation-products of the other (see RADIOACTIVITY). In 1903 they were awarded the Davy medal of the Royal Society in recognition of this work, and in the same year the Nobel prize for physics was divided between them and Henri Becquerel. Professor Curie, who was elected to the Academy of Sciences in 1905, was run over by a dray and killed instantly in Paris on the 19th of April 1906. His elder brother, PAUL. JACQUES CURIE, born at Paris on the 29th of October 1856, published an elaborate memoir on the specific inductive capacities of crystalline bodies (Ann. Chim. Phys. 1889, 17 and 18).
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