During Curie’s time, women were rarely scientists. They were expected to be homemakers, not innovators. Pierre Curie respected Marie’s work and supported her through her revolutionary discoveries. Marie Curie started with some background knowledge of radiation. “Marie… knew any solid matter that contained uranium or thorium gave off rays, but nobody knew the cause… A mineral called pitchblende contained both uranium and thorium, so the Curies… [used it] to test Marie’s theory” (Demi 16). The Curies found that there was something more than simple uranium or thorium, which then led to the discovery of polonium. But there was more than even polonium in the pitchblende. When the Curies investigated further, they found that the liquid left behind after they had extracted polonium was still extremely radioactive. They realised that pitchblende contained another new element, far more radioactive than polonium, but present in even smaller quantities” (“Marie Curie the Scientist” [Marie Curie Organization]). This new element was radium. After completing research leading to the discovery of not one but two new elements, the Curies were considered to be very impressive scientists.
“The room where experiments on uranium ore took place - the laboratories of Marie and Pierre Curie, Paris, ca. 1900”
Nobel Prize Organization, ca. 1900)
(“Marie Curie in her chemistry laboratory at the Radium Institute in France" Nobel Prize Organization, 1921")