MSC100 - The French-Polish Accent of the IYC2011

Robert Guillaumont,1 Janusz Lipkowski,2 Barbara Petelenz,2 & Jean-Pierre Vairon3
1
Academie dew Sciences-Institut de France, Comite National de la Chimie
2Department of Nuclear Physical Chemistry, The Henryk Niewodniczański Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków, Poland barbara.petelenz@ifj.edu.pl
3 Université Pierre et Marie Curie, UMR 7610 - Chimie des Polymeres, Paris, France jean-pierre.vairon@upmc.fr

June 8, 2012 - June 14, 2012
Abstract: 

Poland and France decided to celebrate jointly the centenary of the Marie Sklodowska Curie’s Nobel prize in Chemistry (MSC100) within the frame of the IYC2011. In the two countries the IYC led to more than 500 officially listed activities, including numerous actions devoted to Marie Sklodowska Curie, organized by both Polish and French Academies of Sciences, the respective chemical societies together with other national research institutions, numerous universities, the Warsaw and Paris MSC Museums, as well as other scientific institutions in a wide national and international co-operation. The initiatives celebrating the achievements of chemistry and its ambitions for humankind spanned everything from major international scientific congresses, specific national actions up to individual efforts of the youngest schoolchildren. The  celebration of the centenary of the Nobel Prize in  Chemistry awarded to Marie Skłodowska-Curie was officially opened at the Sorbonne in Paris on January 29, 2011 and closed at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on November 25, 2011 under the honorary patronages of the Presidents of the French and Polish Republics. The IYC2011 icon, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, personifies not only the  achievements of a woman-scientist, but also the humanitarian aspects of science applications, the social role of education, as well as international  cultural links. In all these contexts, the Polish and French celebrations of the IYC2011 highlighted or intensified the initiatives which already have been there, starting from the historical links between the two countries, crowned with the personal involvement of Madame Curie in the organization of the first radiological laboratories and the Radium Institutes both in Paris and Warsaw. A special phenomenon in both countries is a multitude of schools named  after Marie Skłodowska-Curie, which cultivate the teaching tradition represented by Marie Skłodowska and her family since the 19th century. The  same tradition is continued by leading Polish and French universities and research institutions. Some striking examples of the MSC100 celebration actions developed in Poland and France in 2011 will be presented in the text, together with a particular emphasis on international links and the interdisciplinary character of the research work of Marie Curie.

http://www.chemistry2011.org/participate/activities/show?id=268

Article PDF: 

 

MSC100 – the French-Polish accent of the IYC2011

Barbara Petelenz [a], Janusz Lipkowski [b], Robert Guillaumont [c] and Jean-Pierre Vairon [d]

 

Abstract

Poland and France decided to celebrate jointly the centenary of the Marie Sklodowska Curie’s Nobel prize in Chemistry (MSC100) within the frame of the IYC2011. In the two countries the IYC led to more than 500 officially listed activities, including numerous actions devoted to Marie Sklodowska Curie, organized by both Polish and French Academies of Sciences, the respective chemical societies together with other national research institutions, numerous universities, the Warsaw and Paris MSC Museums, as well as other scientific institutions in a wide national and international co-operation. The initiatives celebrating the achievements of chemistry and its ambitions for humankind spanned everything from major international scientific congresses, specific national actions up to individual efforts of the youngest schoolchildren. The celebration of the centenary of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to Marie Skłodowska-Curie was officially opened at the Sorbonne in Paris on January 29, 2011 and closed at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on November 25, 2011 under the honorary patronages of the Presidents of the French and Polish Republics. The IYC2011 icon, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, personifies not only the achievements of a woman-scientist, but also the humanitarian aspects of science applications, the social role of education, as well as international cultural links. In all these contexts, the Polish and French celebrations of the IYC2011 highlighted or intensified the initiatives which already have been there, starting from the historical links between the two countries, crowned with the personal involvement of Madame Curie in the organization of the first radiological laboratories and the Radium Institutes both in Paris and Warsaw. A special phenomenon in both countries is a multitude of schools named after Marie Skłodowska-Curie, which cultivate the teaching tradition represented by Marie Skłodowska and her family since the 19th century. The same tradition is continued by leading Polish and French universities and research institutions. Some striking examples of the MSC100 celebration actions developed in Poland and France in 2011 will be presented in the text, together with a particular emphasis on international links and the interdisciplinary character of the research work of Marie Curie.


Introduction

Poland and France decided to celebrate jointly the centenary of the Marie Sklodowska Curie’s Nobel prize in Chemistry (MSC100), making it a special accent of the International Year of Chemistry (IYC2011). The MSC100 opening ceremony took place at the Sorbonne on January 29, 2011, and the closing ceremony was arranged at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on November 25, 2011. The MSC100 celebrations - under the honorary patronages of the Presidents of the French and Polish Republics [1] - were organized by the National Committee for Chemistry of the French Academy of Sciences [2] and the French Society of Chemistry [3], together with the Committee for Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences [4] and the Polish Chemical Society [5]. The opening [6] and closing ceremonies gathered a multitude of famous people, including the grand-children of Madame Curie – Doctors Hélène Langevin-Joliot and Pierre Joliot – as well as several Nobel Prize winners [7]. The number of French and Polish events organized during the year 2011 was impressive [8]. Some of them will be highlighted below.

“I was born in Warsaw into a family of professors. I married Pierre Curie...” [9]

The Freta street in Warsaw; on the left-hand side – the house where Marie Skłodowska-Curie was born in 1867 [10]

The house where Marie Skłodowska-Curie lived with her daughters Irene and Eve in Sceaux, France, from 1907 to 1912, after the tragic death of Pierre Curie (1859-1906).10

 

Launching of the IYC2011 on January 27-28, 2011 was preceded by publication of a special issue of Chemistry International, the IUPAC news magazine, dedicated to Marie Skłodowska-Curie[11]. It was edited by a team of French and Polish scientists representing disciplines which emerged and ramified in relation to the discoveries made by Marie Skłodowska-Curie. The biographical note was written by Madame Curie’s granddaughter, Hélène Langevin-Joliot.

Generally, the year 2011 abounded in publications dedicated to Marie Skłodowska-Curie [12]. The special issues of scientific and general public journals referred mainly to her work [13], whereas a historical magazine focused on Poland and France at the times of Marie Skłodowska-Curie [14]. Among the important biographical documents which appeared in France and in Poland in relation to MSC100 were the new editions of the autobiographical books [15] and the choice of letters exchanged between Marie Curie and her daughters, Irène and Ève [16].

January 2011. A special issue of Chemistry International (IUPAC) commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry of Marie Skłodowska-Curie (in English)

February 2011. A special issue of the magazine La Recherche dedicated to the scientific heritage of Marie Skłodowska-Curie (in French)

June 2011. A special issue of the historical monthly dedicated to Poland and France at the times of Marie Skłodowska-Curie (in Polish)

Since the very beginning, the IYC2011 and MSC100 celebrations were accompanied with numerous exhibitions documenting the Polish and French contexts of Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s biography [17]: her youth spent under political coercion in partitioned Poland [18], her university studies at the Sorbonne, her Polish and French family links, her research work and her war effort in France, and on the top of this – the unique contribution of Marie and Pierre Curie to the development of science and the role of Marie-Skłodowska-Curie’s discoveries in beneficial applications of radioactivity.

Permanent exhibitions dedicated to Marie Skłodowska-Curie, located at the Curie Museum in Paris and at the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Museum and the former Radium Institute in Warsaw [19], have been available to the public for many years. The MSC100 celebrations brought a lot of new exhibitions, touring in some cases, prepared either in bilateral Polish-French cooperation [20] or as local initiatives. For instance, the City of Warsaw arranged a tourist track ‘in the footsteps of Marie Skłodowska-Curie’ and an educational path located at the front of the former Radium Institute in Warsaw. The academic community of Cracow, Poland, showed several displays of artworks [21] and rare original documents [22] preserved in private collections and university archives. Similar and numerous initiatives (tourist tracks, exhibitions, theatre performances, movies, conferences, etc.) were engaged as well in Paris as in all regions of France, aiming at a wide opening towards the young people and the general public. They are available on the French web site dedicated to the celebration of Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s Nobel prize (see Ref. 6). An MSC celebration stamp was edited in France in January 2011. Another stamp commemorating Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s Nobel Prize for Chemistry – edited simultaneously in Poland and Sweden – was launched at the MSC100 closing ceremony in Warsaw.

“... I did my scientific work in France”

Many speakers of the MSC100 celebrations emphasized the traditional cultural links between Poland and France. Nowadays, this tradition is carried on by the Scientific Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Paris [23] and by the French Institutes in Poland [24]. Marie Skłodowska-Curie, who spent her whole professional life in Paris, contributed a great deal to reinforce these links by her involvement in organization of Radium Institutes in Paris and in Warsaw [25]. The merits of the Polish-born scientist received the highest appreciation of her adopted homeland, France: since 1995 the relics of Marie and Pierre Curie lay in the Pantheon in Paris. A visit to the tomb of Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a must for all people who were coming to Paris for the MSC100 celebrations.

Curie model

Several MSC100 lecturers spoke about the role played by Marie Skłodowska-Curie in the development of radiation oncology [26]. Most of them emphasised the attitude launched by Madame Curie, according to which the fundamental research in radiation physics and chemistry is a key prerequisite to the innovative patient’s care. This approach, known as the Curie model, was the main subject of several international congresses held in 2011 [27].

Considerable energy

A long-term consequence of Marie Skłodowska-Curie’s research [28] was the development of nuclear power industry, in which respect France is a world’s leader. Since 2009, the French experts share their experience with Polish specialists who aim at installation of nuclear power plants (NPP) in Poland. During MSC100 several international seminars on nuclear energy [29], [30] as well as educational actions addressed to the wide public [31] were organized in the French-Polish cooperation.

1911 Nobel Prize for Chemistry

The MSC100 celebrations were inspired by the centenary of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry awarded to Marie Skłodowska-Curie in recognition of the importance of her discovery of polonium and radium. A symbolic highlight of this anniversary was the 54th Congress of the Polish Chemical Society, held just at the Marie Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin [32]. The impact of Madame Curie’s research on the development of chemistry was a subject of several plenary lectures given during the MSC100 opening and closing ceremonies [33]. Contribution of Madame Curie to the development of physics was emphasised too [34].

Lessons of Marie Curie

The MSC100 celebrations abounded in educational initiatives addressed at schoolchildren and university students. The most solemn one was the January 29, 2011 afternoon session at the Sorbonne, where the young people could address their questions to the top-notch scientists invited to the celebrations. But the educational ‘work at foundations’ belonging to the Polish positivist tradition represented by Marie Skłodowska-Curie [35] has been carried out by a multitude of schools, universities and research institutions in France and Poland for many years preceding MSC100. In 2011 these activities were intensified. A great attraction of MSC100 were the numerous competitions and science festivals addressed at young people in both countries. [36]

Role model

The example of Marie Skłodowska-Curie is particularly attractive to other women-scientists. The presence of women in the modern scientific community was pointed out at the international session “Women in Science”, held at the Royal Castle in Warsaw on 25 November 2011. The honorary chairperson of the session was Prof. Ada Yonath, the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. The first lecture on the session was given by Prof. Nicole Moreau, the president of the IUPAC.


Disclaimer

The size of this review did not allow us to present the full list of Polish-French activities related to MSC100. All possible omissions are unintentional.

References




[a] Poland, The Henryk Niewodniczański Institute of Nuclear Physics, Polish Academy of Sciences
e-mail: Barbara.Petelenz@ifj.edu.pl

[b] Poland, Institute of Physical Chemistry and Committee for Chemistry, Polish Academy of Sciences
e-mail: janusz.lipkowski@ichf.edu.pl

[c] France, French Academy of Sciences, National Committee for Chemistry
e-mail: robert.guillaumont0663@orange.fr

[d] France, University P. & M. Curie, National Committee for Chemistry
e-mail: jean-pierre.vairon@upmc.fr




[1] Mr Nicolas Sarkozy and Mr Bronisław Komorowski, respectively

[2] Académie des Sciences – Institut de France, Comité National de la Chimie

[3] Société Chimique de France, http://www.societechimiquedefrance.fr/

[5] http://en.ptchem.pl/ (2012-05-04)

[6] Video records in French, Polish and English are available at http://www.dailymotion.com/playlist/x1mdgr_Palais_de_la_decouverte_confe...

[7] Ada Yonath, Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2009; Yuan Tseh Lee, Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1986; Jean Marie Lehn, Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1987; Claude Cohen- Tannoudji, Nobel Prize for Physics 1997.

[9] The quotation comes from the most concise CV written by M. Skłodowska-Curie

[10] The pictures come from the archives of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Museum in Warsaw,
http://muzeum-msc.pl/, and from the blog of Le Monde, http://sceaux.blog.lemonde.fr/2012/05/16/la-maison-de-marie-curie-un-tem...

[11] Chemistry International 33/1 (2011)

[12] See e.g. H. Langevin-Joliot – Fates of a special family (in Polish). Orbital (ISSN 1231-2002) 6 (2011) 309.

[13] See e.g.
Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry 400/6 (2011) 1543-1545, DOI: 10.1007/s00216-011-4938-y
La Recherche, 42/Hors-Serie, Feb 2011, 4-79

[14] Mówią Wieki Nr 6 (617) 2011; a special number published under the honorary patronage of the French Embassy in Poland and the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

[15] Maria Skłodowska Curie. ‘Autobiographical notes’ and ‘Pierre Curie’. 2nd edition, versions in English, French and Polish. GAL 2009, in co-operation of the Polish Chemical Society and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Museum in Warsaw.
M. Skłodowska-Curie – ‘Autobiographical notes’ and ‘Pierre Curie’. Galant Edition, Warszawa 2011.

[16] ‘Marie Curie et ses filles: lettres’ (in French), edited by H. Langevin-Joliot and M. Bordry, Pygmalion (Flammarion) 2011;
‘Maria Curie i córki. Listy’ (in Polish). Publicat (Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie) 2011.

[17] See, e.g.
E. Curie, ‘Madame Curie: A Biography’, simultaneously published in France, Britain, Italy, Spain, the United States and other countries, first edition 1937;
F. Giroud, ‘Une femme honorable. Marie Curie – une vie’, Fayard 1982;
S. Quinn, ‘Marie Curie: A Life’, Simon & Schuster 1995;
B. Goldsmith, ‘Marie Curie, Portrait intime d’une femme d’exception’, Gallimard, 2006.

[18] For historical details see e.g.
Norman Davies. ‘The Heart of Europe: Short History of Poland’. Oxford University Press 1984.

[19] Now: the oldest part of the Centre of Oncology – Institute Memorial to Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Poland

[20] The main multilingual exhibition dedicated to Marie Skłodowska-Curie was shown for the first time during the IYC launching at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris on January 27-28, 2011.

[21] Stamps, coins, banknotes and medals from private collections of Prof. Jerzy Bartke from the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Cracow, Poland. The first of several exhibitions was organized in March 2011 at the Jagiellonian Library in Cracow. The MSC stamps collection of Prof. Daniel Rabinovitch from UNC Charlotte, USA, was presented at the closing ceremony, Warsaw, November 2011

[22] March 2011, Institute of Physics, Jagiellonian University (UJ); May-June 2011, Museum of the UJ; December 2011-February 2012, University of Science and Technology AGH

[23] The Centre, which now belongs to the Polish Academy of Sciences, was established in 1893; http://www.academie-polonaise.org (2012-04-18).
In the evening of January 28, 2011, the Director of the Station, Prof. Jerzy Pielaszek, a chemist who was deeply engaged in the organization of the MSC binational event, gave a welcome party for the eminent French and Polish participants of the MSC100 and IYC2011 opening celebrations.

[26] Professors A. Aurengo, C. Huriet, and M. Krawczyk, at the Sorbonne on January 29, 2011. See Ref. 6

[27] 14th International Congress of Radiation Research, Warsaw, Poland, August 28 - September 1, 2011 http://www.icrr2011.org/ (2012-04-23);
International Conference on Medical Physics and Engineering on ‘Physics and Engineering for health and Wellness of Society’, Poznań, September 21-24, 2011 http://www.fizmed2011.amu.edu.pl/info.html
(2012-04-23)

[28] Pierre Curie who measured heat emitted by radium samples described its amounts as ‘considerable’ (cf. P.Curie & A. Laborde, Comptes Rendus 1903).
Marie and Pierre Curie were the first ones to deduce that radioactive atoms must be very rich in energy.

[30] 1st International Nuclear Energy Congress, Warsaw, May 23-24, 2011 http://nuclear.ucbzse.edu.pl/2011/en
and the Seminar on GEN IV reactors (organized by the AREVA company and the Warsaw University of Technology), Warsaw, May 25, 2011

[31] 15th Scientific Picnic, Warsaw, May 28, 2011; http://www.se.pl/piknik-naukowy,31963/ (2012-04-24)

[32] 54th congress of PTChem & SITPChem at UMCS, Lublin, Poland 18-22.09.2011

[33] Professors P. Radvanyi, R. Guillaumont, and M. Kleiber, at the Sorbonne on January 29, 2011. See Ref. 6

[34] Professor A.K. Wróblewski at the MSC100 closing ceremony in Warsaw on November 25, 2011 and at many other places  in Poland and abroad during 2011.

[35] Lessons of Marie Curie. French original:  ‘Leçons de Marie Curie. Recueuillies par Isabelle Chavannes en 1907’. Editions EDP Sciences, Les Ulis 2003; Polish edition: ‘Lekcje Marii Skłodowskiej-Curie’, WSiP, Warszawa 2004. 

Comments

MSC100

Dear Barbara, Janusz, Robert and Jean-Pierre,

Thanks for sharing your experiences on MSC100 and related events.

I have three questions for you. First, in a famous film "Madame Curie" staring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon produced by MGM in 1943, it stated that in order to rule out the possibility of existing elements (by then there were 78 elements in the periodic table), Marie Curie had to do the experiments multiple times, 5677 times for crystallization from eight tons of pitchblende, spanning almost four years. As I knew, the film was based upon her daughter's (Eve Curie) book titled "Madame Curie: A biography" in 1937. I am curious if there is any formal document for the 5677 times crystallization.

Second, Marie Curie once mentioned that she developed her interest and experimental work during her time at the Floating University. The other was that Marie’s cousin, Josef Boguska, was educated in St. Petersburg under the great Russian scientist Dmitri Mendeleev (Chiu and Wang, 2011, p.11). While preparing my chapter on Marie Curie and Science Education for a co0edited book, I have difficult time to find the source of her attendence to the Floating University. How was the role of the Floating University by then? Also, was there any formal document stated that Marie Curie got inspiration directly from conversation with Mendeleev or his work?

Finally, how Marie Curie was introduced in school science textbook (such as for elementary, secondary, and tertiary levels) in France and Poland? In which perspectives? Limited studies have been conducted in investigating the topic of Marie Curie in textbooks. Your input is highly appreciated.

Reference: Chiu, M. H. & Wang, N. Y. (2011). Marie Curie and Science Education. In M. H. Chiu, P. J. Gilmer, & D. F. Treagust (Eds.), Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie's Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.

Response forwarded by authors:

Dear Colleagues,

Please find, below, the answers given by Professor Andrzej Kajetan Wróblewski, the best expert in the field I know.

Best regards an wishes

Janusz Lipkowski

Question 1:  The book by Eve Curie can not be regarded as a serious biography of Marie Curie, but rather as a hagiography of beloved mother by an orphaned daughter. In particular, there is very little there on the scientific issues - Eve Curie was not a scientist.

The film with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon is very nicely performed but it contains MANY FACTUAL ERRORS. For example, in the film there is a lot about an alleged interaction and discussion between Becquerel and Pierre Curie. In reality there was no interaction whatsoever between them prior to Marie's investigation. Becquerel and Piere belonged to different worlds, and the academician Becquerel - looking down from the olympus of French science - did not even bother to discuss physics with some young and "obscure" (in his mind) researchers.
The best characterization of that period in French science is given by Susan Queen in her book on Maria Curie.

I studied many original and secondary documents and never found any reference to "5677 trails... spanning almost four years". The period during which Marie came to the idea of a possible new element(s) lasted from December 1897 to April 1898, and then the joint work of Marie and Pierre which led to the discoveries of polonium and radium, lasted until December 1898 - thus the total was about ONE year and not four.

Question 2: As far as I know, Marie Curie never met Mendeleev in person - certainly not prior to her discoveries. I'm not sure whether they could have met in Paris in 1900 during the international congress of physics (I do not know if Mendeleev was a participant there).
Marie certainly got a lot of inspiration from Józef Boguski, who was earlier an assistant to Mendeleev in St. Petersburg. Marie learned basic experimental skills in the so-called Museum of Industry and Agriculture in Warsaw, a private institution with small laboratories of chemistry (led by Napoleon Milicer) and physics (led by Józef Boguski).
There is no solid proof, but only hearsay, concerning Marie's link with the Floating University - one can say with certainty that she couldn't have got her inspiration for science from it.

 

Question 3: I know for sure that Marie Curie was already mentioned in the Polish textbooks for primary schools in the 1930-ties. I had such a textbook myself - I lost it during the war. I know nothing about French textbooks.

 

 

MSC100

Dear Barbara, Janusz, Robert and Jean-Pierre,

Thank you for sharing with us your article on the joint Polish-French initiatives during MSC100.  I am curious to the types of student questions asked at events like the Jan. 29, 2011 event at the Sorbonne.  Did anyone ask questions along the lines of when did she first realize that there were detrimental health consequences to working with radiation? Is it true that her old laboratory notebook is so radioactive that it is kept in a lead box and you need special protective gear to read it?  Did she ever write anything reflectively about these issues which could give advice to future scientists working on the frontiers of science and knowledge?  In some ways there are parallels of her early experimental work in radiation chemistry to contemporary work in the nanotechnologies, and I am wondering if she ever wrote anything dealing with the unknown risks in performing science, which today's students and scientists who are pioneering nanotechnologies could benefit from? I am also interested if the youth of France and Poland ever asked questions along these lines? 

Thank you for this informative resource.

Sincerely,
Bob Belford

Response by Jean-Pierre Vairon & Robert Guillaumont

Question 1 : …types of student questions asked at events like the Jan. 29, 2011 event

            The high school students present at the Sorbonne were essentially concerned by,

-          the mutual influence of Pierre and Marie during their collaboration

-          the  difference between the MSC’s Nobel of Physics and Nobel of Chemistry as far as both were related to radioactivity

-          how and when did P. and M. Curie realized the potential effects of radioactivity/radioelements on the human body.

            These aspects were considered by the  panel and the discussion can be followed on the     video records of the Sorbonne event at

http://www.dailymotion.com/playlist/x1mdgr_Palais_de_la_decouverte_conferences-colloques/1#video=xj4p9v, English version, part Gb-4/6, approx. time 49 min 20 s to the end

(sound is clearer on the french version).

 

Question 2 :  Did anyone ask questions along the lines of when did she first realize that there were detrimental health consequences to working with radiation? Is it true that her old laboratory notebook is so radioactive that it is kept in a lead box and you need special protective gear to read it?

-          Yes. See Q1

-          In fact both Pierre and Marie observed the burn marks on human skin of arms, body and fingers as soon (1901) as few quantities of isolated radium (or enriched baryum/radium salts) were available or due to the handling of radioactive substances, (but the well known picture of burns on an arm does not correspond to the arm of Pierre !)

-          Probably around 1904, Pierre worked with MD(s) on the effects of radioactive gas (radon) on the breathing of small animals. This confirms that both he and Marie felt concerned by the possible biological effects/risks, but probably the immediate ones (called today non stochastic). We don’t know if, at that time, they realized the potential long term effects (stochastic effects).

-          Later, Marie took care of the health damages due to exposure to radiations and incorporation of radioelements as at the Radium Institute she established security rules like monthly blood counts and lead protection during experiments. After World War I, she was a member of a first official committee in charge of establishing security rules with respect to electric discharges and radiations. As already quoted by Barbara, Marie in her last book on Radioactivity (Hermann, 1935) devoted some pages to experimental precaution rules and to the biological effects of radiations.

-          All the archives of Pierre and Marie (including the three black notebooks of Marie) were given in 1967 on the occasion of the centenary of Marie to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, where they are kept after radium decontamination. The dose rates are extremely low and the only protection of the Marie’s notebooks consists in plastic covers avoiding contamination by contact during handling and stopping the a-rays. These documents may be consulted at the BNF without any specific precaution but probably not by the general public. We ignore if they are stored in a lead box. We will check the point at the BNF and let you know !

 

Question 3 : Did she ever write anything reflectively about these issues which could give advice to future scientists working on the frontiers of science and knowledge?  In some ways there are parallels of her early experimental work in radiation chemistry to contemporary work in the nanotechnologies

            We agree with the general answer of Barbara, but if we limit your question to the absolute need for researchers/students to take into account the unknown risk aspects in developing new areas of science we are not aware of any reflective document written by Marie. We consulted Helene Langevin who confirmed she has no information and is highly doubting. In fact, besides the established Curie therapy, cosmetic uses of radium were developed for decades before the scientists and general public consider the potential damages due to long term exposure to low dose rate of radiation. Marie Curie herself most probably realized only at the fate of her life when she was already sick.

Whe can underline that exposure to radioactive substances results in many cases from nanoparticles, for instance the so-called exposure to « radon » (t1/2 ~ 3 days) is essentially an exposure to an aerosol of all radioactive « daughters ». Somewhere this makes particularly pertinent the parallel with the current situation associated with the development of nanotechnologies.

                                                 Jean-Pierre Vairon and Robert Guillaumont

Student Understanding Through Wikipedia

 

Hi Jean-Pierre and Robert,

Thank you for your detailed response to my questions.  Your response has brought something very important to my attention, and that is that the bit on her books being in a lead-box came from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie , and here is the direct quote.

Because of their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. They are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing.[44]

[44] Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything, p. 148.

I think it is important for both eduactors and scientists who care about public knowledge to be cognizant of the importance of Wikipedia as a global information source, and I dare say that most school kids who did a report on Marie Curie last year will think her cookbook is now in a lead box. ... So this can be an excellent example to teach critical thinking skills while showing students how to use Wikipedia, and how you can not believe that something is true just because it is cited. (We can compare sources; Bryson's "Short History of Nearly Everything" to your ConfChem paper and its discussion).

 

Additional Information on MSC Notebook

Hi Bob,

To complete our answer to your comments and questions:

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France has been contacted via the Director of the Musée Curie-Paris. The BNF confirmed that the notebooks of Marie Curie are not stored in a lead-lined box. As noticed previously the sheets are only protected by plastic covers. They are kept in a security room together with regular precious archives. This might clarify the information delivered on Wikipedia (ref 44).

For information, the documents (digital form) are available at,
http://gallica.bnf.fr/Search?lang=en&adva=1&catsel1=f_subject&cat1=Laboratoire.+Exp%C3%A9riences+de+Marie+Curie

All of us would like to warmly thank you for your huge personal investment in this excellent Virtual Colloquium.

Cheers

Jean-Pierre

Posting by Barbara Petelenz

Dear Bob,
I perfectly agree with you about the necessity of critical attitude towards
various publications.
And I know from my own experience that verification of the published
information may be very difficult.

For example, the Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie) says
about M.Curie:

“Doctoral advisor: Henri Becquerel (...) In 1903, under the supervision of
Henri Becquerel,[33] Marie was awarded her DSc from the University of Paris.”
[33] R.F.Mould, The British Journal of Radiology, 71 (1998) 1229-1254.

But I noticed that other biographers of Marie Curie as well as historians of
science do not confirm the role of H. Becquerel as the supervisor of Marie
Curie.
E.g.  J. Hurwic (professor of radiochemistry, founder of the MSC Museum in
Warsaw) wrote:
“P. Schutzenberg, director of EPCI, gives a permission that MSC conduct her
research in her husband’s laboratory (...) She starts her doctoral research
on December 16, 1897 (...) The text of the dissertation was read and accepted
on May 11, 1903 by the Dean of the Faculty, Paul Appell”. [A]

As far as I can deduce from the historical context, the Curies worked mainly
on their own, and Marie kept a great piece of autonomy in this research team.
I would also think that the role of the ‘doctoral advisor’ was different at
that time.

By the way, the title page of the original thesis in French, reproduced in
[A] from the copy stored at the University Library in Marseille (cat. No.
90297) gives only the names of the board of examiners: Lippmann (the
President), Bouty and Moissan. The supervisor’s name is not mentioned at all.

Besides, A.K. Wróblewski (professor of physics and historian of science)
emphasises that by 1898 (the year of the discovery of polonium and radium)
Henri Becquerel apparently lost interest in “uranium rays” discovered by him
in 1896, and did not return to research on radioactivity until a few years
later, when he received Po and Ra samples from the Curies. This information
can be verified by searching for H.Becquerel’s papers published between 1896
and 1898. [B], [C]


As to radioactivity of the lab books used by Marie Curie, I would be more
happy if someone wrote explicitly that that dose rate value at the so-and-so
distance from their surface is so-and-so milli Sieverts per hour at the
chosen date. Preferably, with the distinction between the alpha, beta, and
gamma radioactivity. Maybe, such rudiments should be taught at schools?

Generally, I can believe in contamination of the Curies' lab environment
because I cannot imagine chemical processing of several tons of uranium ores
without it. On the other hand, we should remember that Madame Curie was a
professional and hated a sloppy work. She was very well aware of the
importance of chemical purity of her samples, especially at the stage of
refining [D]. I am sure that she strived for avoiding cross-contamination and
tended to protect her lab notes which would be damaged by any chemical spills.

I also think that it is always worth stressing that the requirements to wear
protective clothes, gloves, goggles etc., when handling with radioactive
samples are nowadays the normal radiation safety measures.
And that radiation detection is one of the most sensitive methods of chemical
analysis (invented by MSC, of course).

I kindly ask the readers of this letter to correct me if I am wrong.

Best regards,

Barbara

References to this letter:
[A] Source:  Badanie ciał radioaktywnych; Author: Maria Skłodowska-Curie;
Editor: Józef Hurwic; Publisher: Warszawa : Instytut Kształcenia
Ekonomicznego PTE, 1992; Dissertation: Rozprawa przedstawiona Wydziałowi
Matematyczno-Przyrodniczemu Uniwersytetu Paryskiego w celu uzyskania stopnia
doktora nauk fizykalnych; Edition/Format:  Thesis/dissertation; Language:
Polish. http://www.worldcat.org/title/badanie-cia-
radioaktywnych/oclc/749814198?

ht=edition&referer=
[B] Source:  Historia fizyki. Od czasów najdawniejszych do współczesności;
Author: Andrzej Kajetan Wróblewski; Publisher: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN, 2011
(copyright 2007), Pages: XVI+620;   Language: Polish. (by the way: I would be
happy if this gorgeous book were translated into English)
http://ksiegarnia.pwn.pl/produkt/5243/historia-fizyki.html
[C] A.K. Wróblewski – Speech at the MSC100 closing ceremony, Warsaw, November
25, 2011.
[D] M. Curie – Autobiographical notes.

Further response to question on radiation exposure

Dear Bob,

I would like to answer another of your yesterday’s questions:
Q3. “when did she first realize that there were detrimental health consequences to working with radiation?”

A3.

I think that you can count from the year 1901, i.e. from the first planned radiobiology experiment performed by Pierre Curie*), although accidental radiation burns were suffered before 1901 as well by Pierre and Marie Curie as by Henri Becquerel (cf. R.F. Mould, Current Oncology 14/3 (2007) 118-122 and R. F. Mould. Radium history mosaic. NOWOTWORY Journal of Oncology 2007, supplement).

*)Pierre Curie purposely affixed a radium sample to his forearm and made the long-term observations of the skin reaction.

 It is worth noting that in her treatise on radioactivity (Paris 1934, Chapter XVIII, section 107) Madame Curie formulated the modern principles of radiation protection.
She already distinguished between internal and external exposure.
The precautions recommended by her involved the following:

*Avoid touching radioactive substances with your fingers (use forceps, tweezers etc.) *Avoid producing and dispersing radioactive dusts *Transfer radioactive liquids with appropriate vacuum tubes and pipettes *Use proper ventillation to avoid accumulation of radioactive gases *Avoid prolonged exposure to radioactive sources *Use radiation shields made of appropriate materials (lead metal bricks and lead glass windows to protect people against gamma radiation) *Try to keep the safe distance from radioactive sources *Especially important:

Monitor the health status of people working with radioactivity, in particular from the viewpoint of blood morphology. If the red and white blood cells count is found abnormal, the person must stop working with radioactivity.

The text by Madame Curie suggests that in 1934 these precautions were already well established in the Radium Institute in Paris.

Regards,

Barbara

 please find below another reference to the article written by a professinal oncologist and historian of science.

R. F. Mould, The discovery of radium in 1898 by Maria Skłodowska-Curie (1867-1934) and Pierre Curie (1859-1906) with commentary on their life and times.
Br. J. Radiol. 71 (1998) 1229-1254.

 

Barbara's reply:

Q1a. 

Did she ever write anything reflectively about these issues which could give 
advice to future scientists working on the frontiers of science and knowledge?
Q1b.
(...)  I am wondering if she ever wrote anything dealing with the unknown 
risks in performing science, which today's students and scientists who are 
pioneering nanotechnologies could benefit from?

A1a,b.

YES. Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSC) always stressed that such innovative applications like radiation therapy (which emerged as early as in 1900) must be based on fundamental research on physics and chemistry of the ‘new bodies’ – in that case: radioactive substances.

Fundamental research was the main reason for the establishment of the Radium Institute in Paris, and this attitude has been followed by generations of MSC disciples, both in France 
and in Poland. In 1925, when the establishment of the Radium Institute in Warsaw was already decided, MSC wrote a booklet about the origins and development of the Radium Institute in Paris, where she emphasised the necessity of fundamental research.

In her monograph on radioactivity (Radioactivite, Paris 1934) MSC devoted a whole (still short) chapter to biological effects of radiation. 

Q2.  
...In some ways there are parallels of her early experimental work in radiation chemistry to contemporary work in the nanotechnologies,...

A2.
I cannot find examples related directly to nanotechnologies. But you may find interesting, that in her PhD thesis (1903) MSC wrote about thermoluminescence of CaF2 salt exposed to radiation emitted by radium samples. Nowadays, the phenomenon is widely used in radiation protection and dosimetry. The thermoluminescent materials are based mainly on doped LiF microcrystallites.  see e.g. 
http://www.ifj.edu.pl/dept/no5/nz58/termoluminescencja.html

Working with radioactive materials

 

Dear Bob,

Curiously, the students did not seem to be very upset by the health problems about radioactivity.

Furthermoire, I have been told that for Marie Curie, the fact that she worked a lot with X-rays during the war was also very life-threatening for her. As well as for her daughter Irene who worked with her, and who was only 18 years old at this period...

 

Regards,

Nicole