Irene Joliot-Curie and Frederic Joliot Curie jointly discovered artificial radioactivity. These isotopes rapidly became important tools in biomedical research and in the treatment of cancer and related diseases.
Irene Joliot-Curie was born on September 12, 1897 in Paris, France. She is the daughter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie. She was a French scientist and was married to Frederic Joliot-Curie was born on March 19, 1900 in Paris, France. He was a graduate of the ecole Superieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris.
Irene, with her husband jointly invented artificial radioactivity and was awarded the Nobel Prize for the same in the year 1935. With this Nobel Prize, the Curies family had the most Nobel laureates to date.
After a year of traditional education, which began when Irene was six years old, Irene's parents realized her obvious mathematical talent and made a decision that Irene's academic abilities needed a more challenging environment. Hence, her parents made her join forces with a number of eminent French scholars which included the prominent French physicist Paul Langevin to form "The Cooperative," a private gathering which had some of the most distinguished academics in France. Each academics contributed to educating one another's children in their respective homes.
This arrangement lasted for two years after which Curie joined the College Sevigne in central Paris from 1912 to 1914 and then onto the Faculty of Science at the Sorbonne, to complete her Baccalaureate. Her studies at the Faculty of Science were interrupted by World War I. After the War, Curie returned to Paris to study at The Radium Institute, which had been built by her parents. Curie's doctoral thesis was concerned with the alpha rays of polonium, the second element discovered by her parents and named after Marie's country of birth, Poland. Curie became Doctor of Science in 1925.
Discovery of Artificial Radioactivity
Curie was asked to teach the precise laboratory techniques that were required for radiochemical research to the young chemical engineer Frederic Joliot whom she later married. From 1928, Joliot-Curie and Frederic started combining their research interests on the study of atomic nuclei. Though their initial experiments identified both the positron and the neutron, they failed to interpret the significance of the results and the discoveries that were later claimed by C.D. Anderson and James Chadwick respectively. These discoveries secured greatness along with J. J. Thomson's discovery of the electron in 1897. They finally replaced Dalton's theory of atoms being solid spherical particles.
Building on the work of Marie and Pierre, who had isolated naturally occurring radioactive elements, Joliot-Curies realized the alchemist's dream of turning one element into another and creating radioactive nitrogen from boron and then radioactive isotopes of phosphorus from aluminium and silicon from magnesium. They created artificial radioactive elements by bombarding the alpha particles (helium nuclei, He2+) on various light elements. They correctly interpreted the continued positron emission that occurred after the bombardment.
This proved that "radioactive isotopes" of known elements had been created. These isotopes rapidly became important tools in biomedical research and in the treatment of cancer and related diseases.
Soon, the application of radioactive materials for the use in medicine was growing and this discovery led to the creation of more radioactive materials quickly, cheaply and in plenty. Curie and Frederic were awarded with the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1935 and this brought with it fame and recognition from the scientific community. This was followed by a professorship at the Faculty of Science for both Curie and Frederic.