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 Pierre Curie

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Pierre Curie

  • Birth 15 May 1859 Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
  • Death 19 Apr 1906 Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
  • Burial Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France
  • Plot Cell 8
  • Memorial ID 1614

Physicist. He is best remembered for his pioneering work in the field of radioactivity, along with his wife, Marie Curie. He was born in Paris, France, where his father was a doctor. He was educated by his father, and demonstrated a strong aptitude for mathematics and geometry in his early teens. At the age of 16, he earned his math degree and by the age of 18 he had completed the equivalent of a higher degree, but did not proceed immediately to a doctorate due to lack of money, working instead as a laboratory instructor. In 1878 he gained his Licentiateship in Physics at the Faculty of Sciences at the Sorbonne (University of Paris) and continued as a demonstrator in the physics laboratory until 1882 when he was placed in charge of all practical work in the Physics and Industrial Chemistry Schools. In 1880 he and his older brother Jacques demonstrated that an electric potential was generated when crystals were compressed, i.e. piezoelectricity. To aid their work, they invented the Piezoelectric Quartz Electrometer. The following year they demonstrated the reverse effect, that crystals could be made to deform when subject to an electric field (Almost all digital electronic circuits now rely on this in the form of crystal oscillators.). In 1894 he met Maria Skłodowska when a friend introduced him to her and was attracted by her devotion to science. He proposed marriage to her and she initially refused, but finally agreed to marry him on 26 July 1895. He studied ferromagnetism, paramagnetism, and diamagnetism for his doctoral thesis, and discovered the effect of temperature on paramagnetism which is now known as Curie's law. The material constant in Curie's law is known as the Curie constant. He also discovered that ferromagnetic substances exhibited a critical temperature transition, above which the substances lost their ferromagnetic behavior; this is now known as the Curie point. He formulated what is now known as the Curie Dissymmetry Principle, that is, a physical effect cannot have a dissymmetry absent from its efficient cause. In 1895 he obtained his Doctor of Science Degree from the Sorbonne and was appointed Professor of Physics. In 1898 he worked with his wife Marie in isolating the atomic elements polonium and radium, and were the first to use the term "radioactivity." Their work, including Marie's celebrated doctoral work, made use of a sensitive piezoelectric electrometer constructed by Pierre and his brother Jacques. He and one of his students made the first discovery of nuclear energy, by identifying the continuous emission of heat from radium particles. He also investigated the radiation emissions of radioactive substances, and through the use of magnetic fields was able to show that some of the emissions were positively charged, some were negative and some were neutral. These correspond to alpha, beta and gamma radiation. In 1900 he was promoted to Professor in the Faculty of Sciences at the Sorbonne. In 1903 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Marie and Antoine Henri Becquerel and the Davy Medal from the Royal Society of London with Marie for their research on radium. In 1904 he and Marie were each awarded the Matteuci Medal for their contributions to physics and he became Titular Professor at the Sorbonne. He died in Paris, France, as a result of a street accident at the age of 46; as he was crossing the Rue Dauphine in the rain at the Quai de Conti, he slipped and fell under a heave horse-drawn cart, dying instantly when one of the wheels ran over his head and severely fractured his skull. In 1909 he was posthumously awarded the Elliot Cresson Medal by the Franklin Institute for his discovery of radium. In April 1995 he and Marie were enshrined in the crypt of the Pantheon in Paris.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1614
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Pierre Curie (15 May 1859–19 Apr 1906), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1614, citing The Pantheon, Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France ; Maintained by Find A Grave .