Originally published at: http://kwontum.blogspot.com/2013/09/nobels.html

You know what’s cooler than winning a Nobel Prize? Winning two Nobel Prizes. How many people have done this since the first award in 1901? Four. Would you believe that the first was a woman?


Madame Marie Skłodowska-Curie. Born in Poland, died in France. A pioneering woman in science, her list of achievements is humbling to even the greatest of geniuses. Her first Nobel was the Physics Prize, awarded in 1903 alongside Henri Becquerel and her husband, Pierre Curie, for the discovery of spontaneous radioactivity. (Quick, what’s the difference between radiation and radioactivity?) Her second was the Chemistry Prize in 1911 for the discovery of radium and polonium and the isolation of the former.

To date, she is the only individual to have won the Nobel Prize in two different sciences. She was also one of the most generous with the award money. Her discoveries (and her gender) forced the reconsideration of well-established beliefs. Her legacy continues in the Curie Institutes in Paris and Warsaw. And on and on and on….

Logic, innovation, and temerity are not exclusive to men. As much as we marvel at modern science and technology, we’d be much further along if our culture were not tainted with a latent sexism (and racism, for that matter). I mention this for two reasons. First, we have wonderful role models in science to inspire young women. They are shamefully largely forgotten. Second, if men do not as a whole learn to respect women as their intellectual equals, then everyone pays a cost.

Life is not fair, but we can choose to treat others fairly.