The History of Marie Curie for Kids

Imagine you are in Europe. The year is 1895 and you live in Poland. Life is changing quickly at this time. Many people have been moving to cities for work or to America to start a new life. But you are a happy child, loving life with your four older siblings. Your father is a math and science teacher and from him, you have come to love math and science as well. However, you do not yet realize that one day you will become one of the most famous scientists in the world. You are Marie Curie.

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867. She was the youngest daughter of five children. When she was born, her name was Marie Sklodowska. She changed her name to Marie Curie later when she got married.

Marie had a happy child and she became interested in science at a young age. She was very smart and got good grades in school. Sadly when Marie was only 10, her mother died. She had become sick with tuberculosis. 

Marie was raised by her father and became more and more interested in math and physics. Physics is the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. Even though Marie got the top grades in her high school, she was not able to go to university when she graduated. The reason was because the university in Warsaw was a men’s-only university at the time.

Marie was very disappointed, but she continued to learn about the subjects she loved however she could. One way was through a secret school that taught university type courses at different locations around the city. Marie’s older sister Bronya also loved learning. Together the two girls dreamed of going to America to study at university there.

However Marie and Bronya were not rich. So they could not pursue this dream of studying in America together. To pursue means to seek to accomplish a goal over a long period of time. Despite this problem, Marie and Bronya did not give up in their hope of going to university. The two girls made a deal with each other. They would attend university in Europe. However, they would not go together. They decided that Marie would work and pay for Bronya to live and attend university in Europe. Afterwards, Bronya would work and pay for Marie to attend. 

For five years, from the age of 19-24, Marie worked as a tutor and nanny for children. She sent most of the money she made to her sister. And in her spare time, Marie would study and read about science and math. 

When she was 24, Marie moved to Paris and started attending university at the Sorbonne, a famous university in France. Marie received money every month from Bronya, however, it was not enough to live and eat well. Marie mostly ate bread and butter. Because she was not eating a healthy diet, Marie got sick often. 

Despite these hardships, Marie finished a master’s degree in physics and a degree in math. 

Shortly after Marie graduated from the Sorbonne, she met a man named Pierre Curie. Pierre was a professor of physics. A professor is a teacher and researcher in a college or university. Marie and Pierre were introduced by a friend of Marie’s in order for Marie to try to find lab space for an experiment she was going to conduct. 

Marie and Pierre fell in love and they were married in 1895. They both loved science and physics. They worked together investigating radioactivity. Radioactivity is a process in which parts of matter break down and create energy.

In 1898, the Curies discovered two new chemical elements, polonium and radium. This was an amazing discovery…

They were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903.

In 1906, Pierre had an unfortunate accident. He was knocked down by a carriage while crossing the road and he died. 

Marie took over his work after his death, including his teaching post at the Sorbonne. In doing so, she became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. She devoted herself to continuing the work that she and Pierre had started together.

In 1911, she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry. 

The work that the Curies did was important in the development of x-ray technology. X-rays are electromagnetic wave of high energy and very short wavelength. They are able to pass through many materials that light cannot. X-rays are used for surgeries and other medical procedures, as they are able to help create images of what is inside of our bodies. Doctors can then use these X-ray images to figure out what is wrong with someone and where to operate, if necessary. 

During World War I, Marie helped ambulances have x-ray machines. She also volunteered with the ambulances and drove to the front lines to help wounded soldiers. 

Marie became the head of the International Red Cross’s radiological service. The International Red Cross is an organization dedicated to protecting victims of international wars.

In the 1920s, when Marie was in her 50s, she developed leukaemia, which is a type of cancer.  This was due to her exposure to radiation from her research. She died on July 4, 1934.

Marie Curie’s determination and hard work during her lifetime brought about amazing scientific developments that impact us all still today. As a woman physicist, she was a trailblazer in her field and faced backlash for her participation. But Marie was strong and determined. And she persisted in doing the work that she loved anyways. As a result, our medical and scientific world was changed. 

Is there something that you are passionate about? With hard work and determination, like Marie Curie, you can also make a difference in the world and in the things you are interested in. The key is to carry on despite times that are hard or backlash from others that you face to your efforts. If you believe in something and want to make a difference, you can do it!

Alternative Energy for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine that you’re living in a futuristic city. Looking at the horizon, you can see towering wind turbines gently rotating in the wind. On the other side, you can see a whole field of solar panels. A nearby dam uses river water to produce even more electricity. The air you breathe is clean and fresh. The cars and other vehicles don’t give off any smoke or pollution. Your surroundings are clean and green, with plants growing all around you. Far away, you can see an old power plant, which is being demolished to make way for new, alternative energy sources. You can also see several large factories nearby, but none of them are emitting black smoke! This is what a city looks like where alternative energy rules the world .

So, what actually is alternative energy? As you may know, today we rely almost completely on petroleum and coal-based energy sources which are called fossil fuels. Energy companies obtain these resources from deep inside the earth’s surface and refine it to produce different fuels, like gas, gasoline, diesel and kerosene. These fuels are burned in power plants to produce electricity. Petroleum was formed by the remains of tiny plants and animals that died millions of years ago. Coal, on the other hand, was formed by larger plants like ferns. These dead materials were covered by layers of mud, rock, and soil over the years. Because of the pressure caused by all the top layers and the heat from earth’s core, the plant and animal remains transformed into petroleum and coal.  Because it took millions of years for petroleum and coal to form, this means that the amount of fossil fuel resources in the world are limited and won’t last forever. Since the number of people in the world  and businesses  in the world keep increasing and advancing, the need  for energy is also rising.  This is why finding new ways to harness energy is so important! Luckily, the world already has a lot of alternative energy sources and smart scientists and engineers are always working on finding new ways to harness energy and improve the technology we already have.

The alternative sources of energy include solar power, wind power, hydro power, tidal energy, geothermal energy, and biomass energy. These are called renewable energy, because they are naturally replenished in a short amount of time unlike petroleum. For example, there’s always more sun and wind! 

First let’s talk about solar energy. Solar energy is the energy we get from the sun. The sun is an incredibly huge, ball of energy which lights Earth with its rays we receive as sunlight. For thousands of years, people have used the sun’s energy to cook food, dry clothes, and keep warm. In our day, people have invented technologies to transform sunlight or solar energy into electrical power. This is done by solar cells, which are also called “photovoltaic” cells. “Photo” means “light” in Latin and “voltaic” stands for “electricity”. So, it’s basically turning sunlight into electricity! Pretty amazing, right? Solar panels are made by putting together many solar cells. If you’ve ever seen shiny panels on rooftops, those are solar panels. A few of my neighbors have them. In Arizona, solar panels are popular because we get LOTS of sunshine. It can also save people money, because the panels capture the light energy from the sun and turn it into electricity that can be used to power all the electric equipment in their house. Solar panels are sometimes used to power boats, food trucks, buildings, and satellites. Although solar energy IS renewable, how much energy they can produce depends on the time of day, season of the year and location in the world. For example, Arizona is much better for solar panels than a place like England that is often cloudy.

Now, let’s talk about wind energy. Wind energy is made from the wind, which is freely available to us just like sunlight. During the middle ages, people used wind power to pump water or grind grains. They built windmills to do that. Nowadays, people use a large structure called a wind turbine to make electricity using wind power. You may have seen these wind turbines as very tall structures that have long blades to capture the wind. Wind turbines can be around 400 feet tall, because the turbine blades need to reach high up into the atmosphere where the wind is faster than on the ground. The power of the wind is transformed into electricity by a small machine called a turbine generator which is connected to the turbine blades. Energy companies build hundreds of wind turbines in large fields where there are a lot of wind. These areas covered with wind turbines are called “wind farms”. When our family drives to California we pass through a huge wind farm. If you’ve never seen a wind farm look up pictures of San Gorgonio Pass. It’s pretty amazing.

The next form of alternative energy is hydropower or hydro energy and is made by using the power of moving water. In the past, people have used the power of water by making water wheels in rivers. Ancient Egyptians used hydro energy to grind grains and early Americans used it to saw wood. In the 1800’s, scientists discovered how to make electrical energy using hydro energy by turning the turbines of a generator. So, it works a little bit like wind power. To harness hydro energy today, people build a dam across a river which creates a water reservoir, which is like a man-made lake. By making a reservoir, we can have a controlled flow of water which can be used to generate electricity. That is, powerplant workers can control the amount and speed of the water flowing out of the dam. So, unlike solar or wind energy, hydro power is more constant and controllable. In Arizona we have the Hoover Dam and Glen Canyon Dam that generate a ton of electricity using hydro power. Be sure to lookup pictures of these impressive dams.

Tidal power is another type of hydro power. But instead of using inland waters like rivers and reservoirs, the energy of seawater is used to make electricity from tidal energy. Ocean tides usually occur twice daily, and tidal powerplants use turbine generators to convert that energy into electricity. Tidal turbines are placed in the path of the tidal waves. When the waves hit the turbine blades, they begin to spin. This movement is transformed into electric power using the turbine generators. So, you can see that the design of wind turbines and hydro turbines are very similar. However, tidal power can change based on the season. We cannot control it like how we control the power generated from a reservoir.

Geothermal energy is a form of alternative energy, that is obtained from the earth’s core. You may already know that the core of the earth is packed with heat. You can sometimes see this heat coming out of volcanoes and geysers. Geothermal energy can be used for heating, cooking and in electricity generation. We get it by circulating water or other liquids through underground tubes. The liquids absorb the geothermal heat and bring it back up. The captured heat can be directly used for heating. It can also be used to produce electricity using steam turbines.

Another really interesting form of alternative energy is biomass. Biomass is  biological materials such as sugar cane, straw, wood chips and many other plant materials. These can be burned to generate electricity instead of burning fossil fuels. Biomass can also be used to make other types of fuel such as diesel and biogas that can replace petroleum-based fuels. This makes biomass different and more important than the other types of alternative energy we discussed. That’s because biomass can be used to produce solid, liquid and gaseous forms of energy instead of just electricity. 

It’s pretty exciting to consider all of the new forms of energy that have been developed over the last 100 years and the improvements that are happening every day. Does alternative energy interest you? If so, do an internet search to watch videos of some of the amazing things people are doing to use renewable energy and what is being done at places like wind and solar farms. Also, more and more engineers and inventors are needed to solve the energy problems we have. Does engineering interest you? If so, math and science are important subjects to improve at. Also, being creative and coming up with lots of ideas. Can you think of an interesting way to use alternative energy to power something you use everyday?

With all of the new inventions, we have more and more options and not one of them is perfect, so many people believe a combination of technologies will solve the problems of pollution while sustaining all of our energy needs. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, so we need to find ways we can all live here and have enough energy without polluting this precious gift we can be given.