Marie Sklodowska Curie opened up the science of radioactivity. She is best known as the discoverer of the radioactive elements polonium and radium and as the first person to win two Nobel prizes. For scientists and the public, her radium was a key to a basic change in our understanding of matter and energy. Her work not only influenced the development of fundamental science but also ushered in a new era in medical research and treatment.
X-rays and Uranium Rays
Marie Curie's choice of a thesis topic was influenced by two recent discoveries by other scientists. In December 1895, about six months after the Curies married, German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen discovered a kind of ray that could travel through solid wood or flesh and yield photographs of living people's bones. Roentgen dubbed these mysterious rays X-rays, with X standing for unknown. In recognition of his discovery, Roentgen in 1901 became the first Nobel laureate in physics.