Marie Curie would be amazed to be famous

Helene Langevin-Joliot, granddaughter of Marie Curie, visits the Marie Curie Hospice

Helene Langevin-Joliot, granddaughter of Marie Curie, visits the Marie Curie Hospice

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MARIE CURIE, who became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, would be “shocked” today if she knew how much her fame eclipsed that of her husband, her granddaughter has said.

Helene Langevin-Joliot, 87, said she believed her grandfather, Pierre Curie, purposely left his name off an important paper which led to their discovery of radium because he thought people would assume he had done all the work.

Speaking as she visited a Marie Curie hospice in London, Mrs Langevin-Joliot, herself a celebrated nuclear physicist, said she felt she had not been discriminated against in her career, but had encountered sexism.

Mrs Langevin-Joliot, who has now retired, said of her grandmother: “I do nothing except now trying to explain her work and try to explain her life to other people with the idea this can help to have more women in science. To promote the idea that women are as able to perform in science as boys.”

But she said that people should also remember her grandfather, who shared the Nobel Prize for physics with her in 1903. “It is not a reason because Marie is a woman to forget the importance of Pierre,” she said.

“I’m sure that if Marie would have seen the situation she would be shocked by the fact that everybody is speaking of Marie Curie and everybody forget completely the fact that all this they shared together.”

Referring to the paper signed by her grandmother, she said: “He was sure that if he has signed it it would be very difficult for Marie to be considered for herself, and not as being just the assistant of a man.”

Marie went on to be awarded a second Nobel Prize, for chemistry, in 1911, for her discovery of radium. Mrs Langevin-Joliot said she has very few direct memories of her Polish-born grandmother, as she was only seven when she died.

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