Genius Female Scientist Honoured

Marie Skłodowska-Curie, whose bust is visible to the right, paved the way for other female scientists by virtue of her genius. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Marie Skłodowska-Curie, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, was commemorated on 9 December 2011, the 100th anniversary of the award of her second Nobel Prize, at an exhibit opened in her honour at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria. Madame Curie received her second Nobel Prize in the field of chemistry.

Hanna Trojanowska, Poland's Deputy Minister of the Economy, praised the Polish-born Curie, who lived and worked in France, for treating her work as a service to others.

Ambassador Florence Mangin of France described Curie as a compassionate person, passionate about science, and who paved the way for women by virtue of her genius.

Despite a difficult early life, and setbacks because of gender stereotypes, Director General Amano said Marie Curie blazed a trail for scientists, researchers and women.

"The situation for women in science has improved considerably in the past 100 years but gender balance in the workplace, and in particular in science, is yet to be achieved. As an international scientific organization, the IAEA is aware of its need to strive for gender balance," he said.

Only about 24% of professional staff at the IAEA are women. The Director General said he takes efforts to achieve gender balance very seriously. "The fact that more and more women are now working in the nuclear sector as physicists, engineers, chemists, managers, inspectors and environmentalists is a favourable development. But the overall numbers remain small.

"It is my hope that Marie Curie will remain an inspiration for young women contemplating a career in nuclear science and engineering. This exhibition will help to remind all of us of just how great her contribution was."

Background

The International Year of Chemistry, established by a Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly, is celebrated in 2011 to coincide with the centennial of Marie Skłodowska-Curie's second Nobel Prize. The Year also celebrates achievements in the fundamental science of chemistry and "its essential contributions to knowledge, to environmental protection and to economic development."

Nuclear technologies' advance depends upon innovations in chemistry and radiochemistry. For example, nuclear medicine relies upon radioisotopes and radiopharmaceuticals. Throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, chemical processes are utilized from uranium's extraction from ore to the safe management of nuclear waste. The IAEA supports its Member States in adopting and benefiting from many of these technologies and their applications.

Last update: 14 November 2014