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Her Family & Childhood
Marie Sklodowski was born on November 7, 1867 in Warsaw the capital
of Poland. Both of her parents were school teachers, and they had high expectations
for their five children (Zosia, Bronia, Jozef, Helena and Marie). Marie,
her sisters, and brother all graduated with the highest grades in their
class. The Sklodowski family was very learned and cultured, but they struggled
financially. Poland was occupied by Russia and Germany. Many jobs were taken
by these unwelcome foreigners. Marie's father, Wladyslaw, was a school principal.
He lost his job to a Russian because he was loyal to Poland and a patriot.
To help meet living expenses, Marie's family took in student boarders. The
household was crowded with so many people in one apartment. Those crowded
living conditions helped to spread tuberculosis, a major infectious disease
in the late nineteenth century. Marie's mother got the disease from Wladyslaw's
brother who came to live with them. After several expensive rest cures in
the south of France, she died in 1878 from TB when Marie was only nine years
Why She Chose Physics
Marie was encouraged to study physical science by her cousin, Jozef
Boguski. He was the director of the Warsaw Museum of Industry. He allowed
her to do experiments in physics and chemistry on the weekends at the museum.
When Marie got to the Sorbonne in Paris, a revolution was about to take
place. It was not a revolution with soldiers, but a revolution in science.
This was a very exciting time to study physics. Physics is a branch of science
that investigates the four forces at work in the universe both on a large
scale, as in the solar system, or on a small scale, as in atoms. The structure
of the atom and the forces which hold it together were still unknown when
Marie enrolled as a student at the Sorbonne.
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