A Brief Biography of Pierre Curie

By Tim Lambert

Pierre Curie was a great scientist of the late 19th century. He was born on 15 May 1859. His father was a doctor. As a child, Pierre was home-schooled. He then attended the Faculty of Sciences at the Sorbonne and he gained a degree in physics in 1878. Pierre became a laboratory assistant and he calculated the length of heatwaves. He then worked on crystallography with his brother Jacques. The two men discovered piezoelectricity.

In 1882 Curie was appointed supervisor at the School of Physics and Industrial Chemistry in Paris. To help his work Pierre invented new instruments. He perfected the analytical balance. He also invented an instrument called a torsion balance. Curie also studied magnetism and he discovered that temperature changes the magnetic properties of a substance. in 1895 he was awarded a Ph.D. in physics.

The same year, in 1895 Pierre married a Polish-born woman, Marie Sklodowska.

The two, Pierre and Marie Curie worked together. In 1896 Henri Becquerel discovered radiation. The Curies investigated it and in 1898 they discovered polonium and radium. Pierre Curie proved there were electrically positive, negative, and neutral particles in emissions of radiation. (Later on, Ernest Rutherford called them alpha, beta, and gamma rays). Pierre also examined the physiological effects of radium, making radium therapy possible.

In 1900 Pierre was appointed a lecturer at the Sorbonne and in 1904 he was made a professor. Meanwhile, in 1903 Pierre was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, jointly with Marie Curie and Henri Becquerel. Also in 1903 Pierre and Marie Curie were jointly awarded the Davy Medal of the Royal Society of London. In 1905 Pierre was made a member of the Academy of Sciences.

The Sorbonne

Tragically Pierre Curie was killed on 19 April 1906, when he was run over by a horse-drawn cart. Pierre was buried in The Pantheon in Paris. His complete works were published in 1908.