A Woman to Know: Irene Joliot-Curie

The farther the experiment is from the theory, the closer it is to the Nobel Prize. — Irene

(Irene and her mother in 1925, image via Wikimedia Commons)


Her mother was the award-winning Marie Curie, yes, of course, and her husband Frederic Joliot was a famed chemist in his own right, but it was Irene's own work in artificial radioactivity that won her her own acclaim. Working with many of the same elements that ultimately took her mother's life, Irene experimented with creating new elements and changing properties, making huge strides in the then-burgeoning field of nuclear physics.

Twenty-four years after her mother's last Noble Prize, and just a single year after Marie had died due to complications from radiation exposure, Irene and Frederic added another win to the Curie name: the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. But the daughter wasn't immune from the disease that took her mother -- from her own work with radioactivity, Irene too contracted leukemia, dying at age 58, in Paris's Curie Hospital, named for her mother.

To date, the Curies are the only scientific family to have won five Nobel Prizes.

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