Marie Curie was one of the most important scientists of the 20th century. Her experiments that led to the discovery of polonium and radium were a breakthrough in the radioactivity field, eventually winning her the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911. But “playing” with such radioactive elements comes at a cost, which, in Curie’s case, was her own life.
The most bizarre fact about Marie Curie though is that her belongings are still, 150 years later, radioactive!
The radiation levels Marie Curie and her husband Pierre were exposed to were so powerful, that her notebooks are now kept in lead-lined boxes. (the article continues after the ad)
And it’s not just the manuscripts. If you happen to visit the Pierre and Marie Curie collection at the Bibliotheque Nationale in France, the majority of their personal possessions (such as furniture, clothes and cookbooks) require protective clothing to be safely handled.
Oh, and just in case, you are also required to sign a liability waiver.
If you think of it though, this should come as not surprise. The damaging effects of radiation were not known at the time and Marie Curie was basically carrying bottles of polonium and radioactive isotopes in her pockets all the time and she even kept them on the shelf because she enjoyed watching them “glow in the dark”.
So, the big question is: when will the radiation go away?
Well, it will stay for quite a while, for about 1,500 years to be more precise. You see radium, the one that Curie was walking around with, has a half-life of 1,600 years!