Trivia

Hard

Which Scientist’s Notebooks Are Still Too Radioactive To Handle?

Marie Curie
Hans Geiger
Ernest Rutherford
Albert Einstein
A 1920 photo of Marie Curie.
Public Domain/Wikimedia

Answer: Marie Curie

Polish-French scientist Marie Curie was one of the pioneers in the field of radiation and radioactivity (a term she coined). Through her work in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, she radically expanded our knowledge of radiation, radioactive isotopes, and discovered two radioactive elements—polonium and radium. For her efforts, she was awarded numerous awards and recognitions including Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry—she was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to be awarded two prizes, and shares the distinction of being the only two-category winner with Linus Pauling (who won one for Chemistry and one for Peace).

Unfortunately for the accomplished Curie, at the time of her research, the effects of radiation on cellular structure were unknown. After years of extensive research in her laboratory handling highly radioactive materials with no safeguards, she succumbed to aplastic anemia—a disorder of the bone marrow brought on by her exposure to ionizing radiation—at the age of 66. The artifacts found within her laboratory, including her numerous research notebooks, are still so radioactive as to require special storage and protective equipment to handle.

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