Citizen Of The World | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 19 | p. 6 | Letters
Issue Date: May 9, 2011

Citizen Of The World

Department: Letters

According to the Newscripts article about the International Year of Chemistry, Marie Curie was France’s “very own” scientist (C&EN, March 14, page 64). Indeed, she was a French citizen; however, she was born in Warsaw, which at the time was part of the Russian Empire and now belongs to Poland. She spent 24 years there before she went to France.

I personally believe writing that Madame Curie is France’s very own is not the most precise expression and is a little harmful toward Polish society. In the Panthéon (Paris) where Madame Curie is buried, her name is written as Marie Curie née Skłodowska.

This emphasizes her Polish roots and indeed does not make her a French Nobel Laureate. Based on my own personal experience, I believe that deep in her heart Marie Skłodowska-Curie was feeling that she was both a Polish and a French citizen.

Agnieszka Nawara-Hultzsch
Piscataway, N.J.

I wouldn’t be writing this were it not for the conjunction of words used in Newscripts. Maria Curie, formally Maria Skłodowska-Curie, is not the best personification of France’s “very own.” As you might have come across, she was as much Polish as she was French. She lived the first 24 years of her life in the motherland of her parents. That won’t change one’s identity—ever.

If Manya (as she was nicknamed) were that much French, francium would have been taken when Marguerite Perey was endorsing a new name for her (somewhat controversial) discovery. Instead Maria called her first discovery polonium. By the way, although little is known about Curie’s youth, it is nevertheless fascinating.

Perhaps a lack of Polish stamps devoted to Curie was one of the reasons for the oversight. Don’t worry; stamps honoring Curie have been issued in other countries, the latest in 2008. Currently, a group of entrepreneurial women is producing and directing a movie starring Krystyna Janda (“Man of Marble,” “Man of Iron”).

Having written this, I still enjoy reading your column; keep it going.

Leslaw Gorniak

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