Chemistry Seals the Bond: The Story of Marie and Pierre Curie

Although scientists Pierre and Marie Curie are most well-known for their discovery of the radioactive elements polonium and radium, the story of their romance is one that continues to echo outside the scientific community. Marie, originally from Poland, met French physicist Pierre when she came to Paris to pursue her studies in the physical sciences and mathematics at the Sorbonne.

In addition to being scientific pioneers, the Curies were bicycle enthusiasts. They used the money from their wedding to purchase bicycles to use on their honeymoon. (Photo courtesy of : http://0.tqn.com/d/womenshistory/1/0/Q/z/2/Marie-Curie-Honeymoon-3208447a.png)

In addition to being scientific pioneers, the Curies were bicycle enthusiasts. They used the money from their wedding to purchase bicycles to use on their honeymoon. (Photo courtesy of : http://0.tqn.com/d/womenshistory/1/0/Q/z/2/Marie-Curie-Honeymoon-3208447a.png)

Though we know that Marie decided to stay in France and marry Pierre, there was once a moment of uncertainty that overshadowed their commitment to one another. In a letter to his beloved Marie, he writes:

“…

We have promised each other — haven’t we? — to be at least great friends. If you will only not change your mind! For there are no promises that are binding; such things cannot be ordered at will. It would be a fine thing, just the same, in which I hardly dare believe, to pass our lives near each other, hypnotized by our dreams: your patriotic dream, our humanitarian dream, and our scientific dream.

Of all those dreams the last is, I believe, the only legitimate one. I mean by that that we are powerless to change the social order and, even if we were not, we should not know what to do; in taking action, no matter in what direction, we should never be sure of not doing more harm than good, by retarding some inevitable evolution. From the scientific point of view, on the contrary, we may hope to do something; the ground is solider here, and any discovery that we may make, however small, will remain acquired knowledge.

See how it works out: it is agreed that we shall be great friends, but if you leave France in a year it would be an altogether too Platonic friendship, that of two creatures who would never see each other again. Wouldn’t it be better for you to stay with me? I know that this question angers you, and that you don’t want to speak of it again — and then, too, I feel so thoroughly unworthy of you from every point of view…

Believed me your very devoted,

Pierre Curie”

Letter excerpt credited to The Gaggle http://the-gaggle.com/2012/01/famous-love-letter-marie-and-pierre/

marie-curie-writing

A letter from Marie Curie to one of her colleagues at the Sorbonne (Image courtesy of: http://atozhandwriting.com/marie-curie/).

Sometimes one can best express his or her thoughts in writing. In our writing, we are candid, allowing our emotions to flow into the pen and onto paper. It is through this letter that he expressed to Marie that which he wished to articulate to her—that not only does he adore her, but he regards her as his intellectual equal.

The couple married in 1895 in Sceaux, France. In an era when men and women were expected to abide to society’s gender roles, Marie and Pierre worked together as a team, imagining a world where their scientific contributions bettered society. Shortly after Pierre was killed in an accident in 1906, a devastated yet determined Marie vowed to continue the work she and Pierre began. The Sorbonne appointed to her husband’s academic position, making her the first female professor at the university. Marie went on to become the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, an achievement rooted in the couple’s work together.

 

Today, there are infinite possibilities of how couples come to be. Here at Dempsey & Carroll, our passion is paper, and we would love to learn about your own personal love story and the letters and notes exchanged that helped to cultivate that love. If you are interested in sharing your story on our blog, please email madeleine@dempseyandcarroll.com.

 

Madeleine Garone,

Madeleine Garone signature

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