On the 5th of December, 2008 the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) Library in Trieste, Italy was officially dedicated to Marie Curie, a woman who devoted her life to science. Ms. Ana María Cetto, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation, was present to give a statement in honour of the woman she described as, “…one of the best known women scientists in the nuclear field and indeed in science as a whole.”
Founded in 1964, ICTP works toward the promotion of advanced studies and research in physical and mathematical sciences especially in developing countries. The Centre provides an international forum of scientific contact for scientists from all countries, and as its focal point, the Marie Curie Library is visited by scientists mostly coming from developing countries. The Library houses one of the largest collections of specialized literature in physics and mathematics in Europe and offers visitors the opportunity to work, study and collect materials which are often unavailable or not easily accessible in their home institutions.
The dedication of the ICTP Library to Marie Curie is a tribute to this remarkable woman, and recognizes the important role that women have played and can play in science. Marie Curie blazed a trail for the scientists and researchers who followed her, but she also blazed a trail for women. The path was not an easy one, as Marie Curie faced substantial obstacles during her career. She was denied a place at Kraków University because she was a woman, and despite her stature as a double Nobel Prize winner, her gender prevented her election to membership of the French Academy of Sciences. Although these setbacks did not deter her commitment to the furtherance of science, they do highlight the fact that even today gender balance in the workplace, and in particular in the domain of science, is yet to be achieved. As an international scientific organization, the IAEA is aware of its need to strive for gender balance and efforts are ongoing to mainstream gender both within the Agency and the Department of Technical Cooperation.
The dedication of the Marie Curie Library serves as a reminder of a woman so instrumental in the understanding of the atom as a force for good, and marks one step further on the path to building a better world through science.