Maria Salomea Skłodowska Curie (November 7, 1867 – July 4, 1934) was a born Polish, but became a naturalized-French physicist & chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, also won an additional and was part of the Curie family who won a total of five Nobel Prizes.
Born in Warsaw under the Russian Empire, she followed her older sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her later degrees. She shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with her husband Pierre Curie, but won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry on her own work.
Madame Curie developed the initial theory of radioactivity, learned to isolating radioactive isotopes and discovered the elements, polonium and radium. Her other accomplishments include founding the Curie Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw and developing mobile x-ray units for field hospitals used in World War I.
While a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska Curie, who used both surnames, never lost her sense of Polish identity. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element she discovered polonium, after her native country.
Marie Curie died in 1934, aged 66, at a sanatorium in Sancellemoz, France, of anemia from exposure to radiation from her scientific research.
References in The Big Bang Theory
All throughout the series, Madame Curie has been an idol of theoretical physicist Sheldon Cooper and the punchline of several jokes involving her have died from the research she conducted on radioactivity.
In "The Inspiration Deprivation", Madame Curie was mentioned as the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Physics, while Amy Farrah Fowler Cooper would be only the fourth woman to win the same prize.
In "The Contractual Obligation Implementation", Madame Curie was mentioned by Sheldon Cooper when the guys were discussing science careers from women with an audience of middle school girls. He added that she had died as a result of her research into radioactivity.
In "The Cooper Extraction", Amy found out that Sheldon used her, Madame Curie and some super heroes as the screen saver on his computer.
In "The Cruciferous Vegetable Amplification", Sheldon plays a game with Leonard using a photograph of the 1911 Solvay Conference on the theory of radiation and quanta that included Madame Curie.
In "The Sibling Realignment", Sheldon related the story of his brother George stealing his Madame Curie Halloween costume when he was young. George didn't want him dressing up a girl and getting beat up.
In "The Big Bran Hypothesis", when Leonard goes to apologize to Penny for breaking into her apartment to clean, he mentions other mistakes like Madame Curie’s discovery of Radium turned out to have great scientific potential even though she would later die a slow, painful death from radiation poisoning.
In "The Vacation Solution", Amy is excited to have her boyfriend Sheldon working on her lab together like when Marie Curie and her husband worked together under the glow of the radium that eventually killed her.
In "The Matrimonial Momentum", chauvinistic Sheldon is describing how much better men are after Amy breaks up with him. His one exception was Madame Curie because she had a penis made of science.