- she investigated samples by clever technique
- she used the electrometer previously invented by her brother
- the air around the sample conducted electricity
- activity of uranium compounds depended on uranium present
- and resulted not from interaction between molecules but from the atom
- she conducted systematic studies of 2 Uranium minerals pitchblende and torbernite four times as active as uranium itself and contained some other substance far more active than uranium
- this idea was originally her own and she established ownership of it.
- imagine here at this stage that a woman could formulate such a thesis.
She had a key hand in evolving science beyond that point and coming to that original thesis, and played a role in what later sysnthesized more definitely in the role of physics, chemistry and quantum physics in realizing the inconceivable breakdown of the atom to nothingness.
In 1896 Henri Becquerel
discovered that uranium salts emitted rays that resembled X-rays in their
penetrating power. He demonstrated that this radiation, unlike phosphorescence, did not
depend on an external source of energy but seemed to arise
spontaneously from uranium itself. Becquerel had in fact discovered
Marie decided to look into uranium rays as a possible field of
research for a thesis. She used a clever technique to investigate samples.
Fifteen years earlier, her husband and his brother had invented the electrometer, a device for
measuring extremely low electrical currents. Using the Curie electrometer, she
discovered that uranium rays caused the air around a sample to conduct
electricity. Her first
result, using this technique, was the finding that the activity of the uranium
compounds depended only on the amount of uranium present. She had shown that the
radiation was not the outcome of some interaction between molecules but must come from
the atom itself. In
scientific terms, this was the most important single piece of work that she
systematic studies had included two uranium minerals, pitchblende and torbernite.
Her electrometer showed that pitchblende was four times
as active as uranium itself, and chalcolite twice as active. She concluded that,
if her earlier results relating the amount of uranium to its activity were
correct, then these two minerals must contain small amounts of some other
substance far more active than uranium itself.
idea [writes Reid] was her own; no one helped her formulate it, and although she
took it to her husband for his opinion she clearly established her ownership of
it. She later recorded the fact twice in her biography of her husband to ensure
there was no chance whatever of any ambiguity. It [is] likely that already at
this early stage of her career [she] realized that... many scientists would find
it difficult to believe that a woman could be capable of the original work in
which she was involved.