Pierre Curie

Pierre Curie
Pierre Curie by Dujardin c1906.jpg
Curie, c. 1906
Born(1859-05-15)15 May 1859
Paris, France
Died19 April 1906(1906-04-19) (aged 46)
Paris, France
Cause of deathFractured skull due to street accident
NationalityFrench
Alma materUniversity of Paris
Known forRadioactivity
Curie's law
Curie-Weiss law
Curie constant
Curie temperature
Discovery of piezoelectricity
Spouse(s)
ChildrenIrène Joliot-Curie
Ève Curie
AwardsDavy Medal (1903)
Nobel Prize in Physics[a] (1903)
Matteucci Medal (1904)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1909)
Scientific career
FieldsPhysics, Chemistry
InstitutionsUniversity of Paris
Doctoral advisorGabriel Lippmann
Doctoral studentsPaul Langevin
André-Louis Debierne
Marguerite Catherine Perey
Signature
Pierre Curie signature.svg

Pierre Curie (i/, KEWR-ee;[1] French: [pjɛʁ kyʁi]; 15 May 1859 – 19 April 1906) was a French physicist, a pioneer in crystallography, magnetism, piezoelectricity, and radioactivity. In 1903, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics with his wife, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, and Henri Becquerel, "in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel".[2]

Early life

Born in Paris on 15 May 1859, Pierre Curie was the son of Eugene Curie (28 August 1827 – 25 February 1910), a doctor of French Huguenot Protestant origin from Alsace, and Sophie-Claire Depouilly Curie (15 January 1832 – 27 September 1897). He was educated by his father and in his early teens showed a strong aptitude for mathematics and geometry. When he was 16, he earned his math degree.[clarification needed] By the age of 18, he earned a higher degree, but did not proceed immediately to a doctorate due to lack of money. Instead, he worked as a laboratory instructor.[3] When Pierre Curie was preparing for his bachelor of science degree, he worked in the laboratory of Jean-Gustave Bourbouze in the Faculty of Science.[4]

Pierre and Marie Skłodowska-Curie, 1895

In 1880, Pierre and his older brother Jacques (1856–1941) demonstrated that an electric potential was generated when crystals were compressed, i.e. piezoelectricity.[5] To aid this work they invented the piezoelectric quartz electrometer.[6] The following year they demonstrated the reverse effect: that crystals could be made to deform when subject to an electric field.[5] Almost all digital electronic circuits now rely on this in the form of crystal oscillators.[7] In subsequent work on magnetism Pierre Curie defined the Curie scale.[8] This work also involved delicate equipment - balances, electrometers, etc.[9]

Pierre Curie was introduced to Maria Skłodowska by their friend, physicist Józef Wierusz-Kowalski.[10] Curie took her into his laboratory as his student. His admiration for her grew when he realized that she would not inhibit his research. He began to regard Skłodowska as his muse.[11] She refused his initial proposal, but finally agreed to marry him on 26 July 1895.[3][12]

It would be a beautiful thing, a thing I dare not hope if we could spend our life near each other, hypnotized by our dreams: your patriotic dream, our humanitarian dream, and our scientific dream. [Pierre Curie to Maria Skłodowska][3]:117

The Curies had a happy, affectionate marriage, and they were known for their devotion to each other.[13]