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    Marie Curie and the Discovery of Radioactivity Mary Caballero
    March 19, 2016 Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016 Introduction Fig. 1: Marie Curie in her late 30s. of her husband, Pierre. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) -

    Marie Curie, shown in Fig. 1, devoted her life to her research and her family. She discovered two new elements, radium and polonium, and was the first women to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win two Nobel prizes in different fields, namely chemistry and physics.

    Early Life and Education

    Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867 to a family of seven. She was a bright student who excelled in physics and math, like her father, who was a math and physics professor. [1] After secondary school, Curie hoped to further her education. While a brilliant and curious student, the University of Warsaw only admitted men and Curie was therefore unable to attend. Curie's sister, Bronya, also hoped to attend additional schooling. As such, they each worked to put the other through school, taking turns on who studied and who worked. In 1891, after Bronya finished school, Curie moved to Paris. There, she attended Sorbonne to study physics and mathematics. After years of schooling, Curie began her life and research in Paris.

    Research and Radioactivity

    Curie received a commission to conduct research post graduation, and found lab space with Pierre Curie, a friend of a colleague. He was also a professor at Sorbonne. The Curies were married two years later. At the start of their relationship, Pierre and Marie worked on separate project, but after the birth of their first child, Pierre began to conduct research with Marie on x-rays and uranium. Curie was studying uranium rays, when she made the claim the rays were not dependent on the uranium's form, but on its atomic structure. Her theory created a new field of study, atomic physics, and Marie herself coined the phrase "radioactivity." She defined radioactivity at the time to be this activity of rays to be dependent on uranium's atomic structure, the number of atoms of uranium. Marie and Pierre spent time working with pitchblende. Pitchblende is a mineral that is the crystallized form of uranium oxide, and is about 70 percent uranium. (Also used in 1789 in the discovery of uranium). Marie and Pierre discovered not only polonium, but also radium, through their work with pitchblende. In 1903, Marie Curie and her husband won the Nobel Prize in physics for their work on radioactivity. She was the first woman ever to receive a Nobel Prize. Just three years after winning the Nobel Prize, Pierre was killed in an accident. Despite being a single mother of two and a widow, Marie Curie continued her research as well as teaching, as she took over Pierre's teaching position at Sorbonne. In 1911, Curie won her second Nobel Peace prize in chemistry.


    Marie Curie not only made huge contributions to the fields of physics and chemistry, but also to the world of medicine. Curie had studied x-rays and x-ray machines in her past research and upon the start of World War I in 1914, she made advances in this field. [2] Curie worked on the X-ray machine discovered by German scientist Wilhelm Roentgen in 1895. She used her newly discovered element, radium, to be the gamma ray source on x-ray machines. This allowed for more accurate and stronger x-rays. She also created smaller and portable x-ray machines that could be used by medics in the field. IN this way she saved many lives and supported the war effort through her work.


    In the 1920s, Curie's health began to deteriorate rapidly. While now, it is common knowledge of the noxious nature of radium and the affect radioactivity has on the human body. But, Marie was not aware of this knowledge. It is said that in her lab, Marie would carry tubes of radium in her pockets. Therefore, the unknown danger of her actions as well as years of close contact with radioactive material, it is no surprise Marie Curie suffered from leukemia late in her life. This high-energy radiation took its toll, and on July 4, 1934, Marie Curie passed away. Her legacy lived on through her eldest daughter Irene. Irene Curie studied in her parent's Radium Institute. She, as well as her husband, was later awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery for artificial radioactivity.

    © Mary Caballero. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


    Arunachalam Muruganantham

    “The most difficult thing is changing people’s mindset. No man has ever died of poverty. Everything is because of ignorance. To break the age-old taboos and to see girls and women use pads was a difficult task,” revealed India’s Pad Man Arunachalam Muruganantham.

    He recalls, “It all started for my wife Shanthi. Now, it has gone global and become a revolution. I am very glad and happy with where my mission has reached.”

    Arunachalam Muruganantham was more concerned about his wife’s health, in spite of being a poor man. India’s Pad Man achieved one of the biggest successes in the world. His perseverance, strong belief to find a solution and never-to-give-up spirits, to ensure his wife does not resort to unhygienic ways like cotton, ash or rag cloth during periods, has made him a global figure.

    Hugh Thompson

    Savior of 11 innocents in crazy time of war


    US pilot who tried to stop the My Lai massacre of civilians in the Vietnam war

    Hugh Clowers Thompson Jr, pilot and whistleblower, born April 15 1943; died January 6 2006

    Hugh Thompson, who has died aged 62, was the helicopter pilot who tried to halt the My Lai massacre of more than 500 villagers by American troops during the Vietnam war. At one point, he rescued 15 defenceless civilians while training his machine guns on US infantrymen commanded by the infamous Lieutenant William Calley, threatening to shoot if they did not stop the slaughter.Hugh Thompson, who has died aged 62, was the helicopter pilot who tried to halt the My Lai massacre of more than 500 villagers by American troops during the Vietnam war. At one point, he rescued 15 defenceless civilians while training his machine guns on US infantrymen commanded by the infamous Lieutenant William Calley, threatening to shoot if they did not stop the slaughter.

    By the time he arrived in Vietnam in late December 1967, Thompson was a 25-year-old chief warrant officer reconnaissance pilot with the 123rd Aviation Battalion. On March 16 1968, he was flying his H-23 scout helicopter, with its three-man crew, over a part of Quang Ngai province known as Pinkville, supporting a three company search-and-destroy assault on several villages, which faulty intelligence had indicated were heavily defended by Vietcong troops. The US 1/20th Infantry Battalion attack was led by Charlie Company, commanded by Captain Ernest Medina, who sent in the 1st platoon, led by Calley, to clear out My Lai and several neighbouring hamlets.


    Charlie Company was bent on revenge; days earlier several of its members had been killed by Vietcong mines and booby traps. Without a shot being fired against them, Calley's men began slaughtering anyone they could find - old men, women and children. Groups of villagers, 20 and 30 at a time, were lined up and mown down. In the four-hour assault, the men of the 2nd and 3rd platoons joined in.

    Early on, Thompson spotted a young woman injured in a field. He dropped a smoke cannister to indicate she needed medical help; he claimed in a court martial later that Medina went over and shot her. During the massacre, Thompson discovered the bodies of 170 executed villagers in a drainage ditch. One of his crew rescued a child and flew it to hospital at Quang Ngai.

    In another incident, he challenged Calley to help a group of civilians hiding in a bunker rather than attack them. When Calley refused, Thompson ordered his helicopter gunners to open fire on the 1st platoon if they advanced any closer. He then called down gunships to rescue the civilians.

    On returning to Chu Lai military base, Thompson reported everything to his commanding officer. But a local inquiry whitewashed his complaints, claiming the civilian deaths had been caused by artillery fire. An elaborate cover-up ensued and Thompson was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the lives of Vietnamese civilians "in the face of hostile enemy fire" - he threw the medal away, believing his commanders wanted to buy his silence.

    A year later, the Pentagon learned the truth and a high-level inquiry was conducted by Lieutenant General William Peers. Thompson later appeared as a witness at the courts martial of several men involved in the massacre or the cover-up, though the only person convicted was Calley, who served a few months in jail before having his life sentence reduced and being given parole.

    During his time in Vietnam, Thompson was shot down five times, finally breaking his backbone. He received a commission, but back in America some colleagues regarded him as a turncoat. When evidence of the atrocity was finally made public in late 1969, he was castigated by pro-Vietnam war politicians in Washington.

    It was only 30 years later that Thompson was recognised as a genuine American hero by the Pentagon, after a nine-year letter-writing campaign. The US army had initially wanted his Soldier's Medal, the military's highest award for bravery in peacetime, to be presented quietly, preferring to keep what happened at My Lai in the background. But Thompson resisted. He wanted a ceremony at the Vietnam memorial in Washington, DC, and the bravery of his fellow crew members recognised as well. In March 1998, he finally got his wish.

    Thompson was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to strict Episcopalian parents, and moved to nearby Stone Mountain when he was three years old. His father served with both the US army and navy during the second world war and spent 30 years with the naval reserve. His paternal grandfather was a full-blooded Cherokee Native American, forced off tribal land in North Carolina in the 1850s and resettled in Georgia. Thompson joined the US navy in 1961, and spent three years with a Seebees construction unit. After a brief return to civilian life in 1964, during which he became a funeral director, he re-enlisted in the army, as it was becoming engaged in Vietnam.


    The My Lai experience affected him badly. He grappled with alcohol and had several failed marriages. After service in Korea, he returned to the US, dropping the name Hugh and calling himself Buck as a way of distancing himself from past events. He left the army briefly and then re-enlisted, flying with medical evacuation units and instructing trainee pilots. He retired from the army in November 1983 and worked as a helicopter pilot for oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico. Later he was involved with the Louisiana department of veteran affairs for six years, giving lectures to students and schoolchildren and speaking about ethics to military academies.

    After his role in trying to stop the massacre was recognised in the US, Thompson and his surviving crew member, Larry Colburn, were taken back to My Lai, where they were introduced to three women who had survived the massacre. On a second visit three years later, he met an electrician from Ho Chi Minh City who, aged nine, had been one of the children Thompson had rescued from the bunker.

    Thompson is survived by three sons and his partner Mona Gossen.



    Dr. Richard Pimentel


    FactSheet on Richard's Work in Disability Employment and the ADA.

    Richard Pimentel was pronounced dead at birth in the delivery room. In a miraculous turn of events, he lived. His mother, who had experienced three miscarriages before his birth, left him in an orphanage, unable to come to terms with his existence. After his father's death, he was raised by his impoverished grandmother and deemed "retarded" by a school guidance counselor. He never spoke a word until age six.

    After his mother abandoned him again for a new boyfriend, Richard was left homeless and roamed from friend’s homes to his father’s old workplace, a strip bar. He lived and slept in the dressing room. During these hard times, he managed to win two national high school speech championships and was offered a college scholarship by College Bowl founder, Dr. Ben Padrow. Richard arrived on campus only to hear Dr. Padrow tell him to come back when he had "something to say."

    Richard followed Dr. Padrow's advice and quit school. Soon after he was drafted to Vietnam, where he survived a volunteer suicide mission and became an acknowledged war hero. During his brief celebration, a stray bomb exploded in his bunker and ravaged his hearing. Not only did Richard lose his hearing, he developed tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears. The government dismissed his dreams of college and public speaking, insisting his fate was one of insanity and rage due to his condition.

    Richard refused to accept this fate. He returned to college where he met Art Honneyman, "the smartest and funniest man he has ever known," who just happened to have a severe case of cerebral palsy. No one could understand Art due to his wheezing, garbled speech—-except for Richard, who could hear Art’s true voice due to his hearing loss.

    At 3 AM, in celebration of Art’s birthday, Art and Richard sat down in a local restaurant for a pancake breakfast. Their waitress threatened to call the police, deeming him the "ugliest, most disgusting thing" she had ever seen. They refused to leave and were arrested under the "Ugly Law," a statute that prohibited public appearances of people who were "unsightly." This injustice propelled Richard, with the help of Dr. Padrow and a host of friends, headlong into the nascent disability movement (FactSheet/Timeline).

    Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them." Richard's disabilities were permanent, but Art encouraged him not to overcome them, but to learn from them. The music that Richard found enabled him to begin a movement that culminated in the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In listening to his music, Richard helped improve the lives of disabled people across the country, including his own.

    Van Cliburn


    Pianist (1934–2013)


    After studying at the Juilliard School in New York City, Van Cliburn made his debut with the New York Philharmonic. In 1958 he became a national sensation as the first American to win the Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. In 1962, he established the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and later limited himself to the Romantic repertoire. Van Cliburn retired from touring in the late 1970s, but he made some appearances in later years. He died in Texas in 2013.

    Early Life

    Born on July 12, 1934, in Shreveport, Louisiana, famed pianist Van Cliburn was the son of an executive and a musician. He learned to play the piano at the age of three with his mother—herself trained by Arthur Friedheim—as his teacher. The family moved to Kilgore, Texas, when he was around the age of 6. At 12 years old, Van Cliburn made his first appearance with the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

    The young pianist then moved to New York City after graduating from Kilgore High School in 1951. There, Van Cliburn continued his musical studies at the famed Juilliard School with Rosina Lhevinne. Three years later, he won the top prize at the Levintritt Competition. This honor opened the doors to performances across the country with such leading orchestras as the New York Philharmonic.

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    World Famous Pianist

    In 1958, Van Cliburn became an American hero with his victory at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. The United States was still reeling from the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik, the first human-made satellite to orbit Earth the previous year. An American winning a prestigious Soviet classical music competition served an important morale booster to the country.

    Upon his return to the United States, the 23-year-old Van Cliburn was feted with a ticker-tape parade through the streets of New York City. The tall Texan spent the next several years touring extensively. During this time, Van Cliburn enjoyed a level of popularity usually only bestowed on pop singers and rock stars.

    By the late 1960s, however, Van Cliburn's appeal had faded considerably. He decided to stop touring all together in the late 1970s. Over the years, Van Cliburn would occasionally return to the stage for special appearances. He performed at the White House in 1987 at an event honoring Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the request of President Ronald Reagan.


    Final Years

    In 2012, it was revealed that Van Cliburn was battling bone cancer. He succumbed to the disease on February 27, 2013, at his home in Fort Worth, Texas. Van Cliburn is survived by his longtime partner Thomas L. Smith. In addition to his work as a performer, he spent much of his life as a patron of the arts. He established the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in 1962. The Van Cliburn Foundation has dedicated the 2013 competition to his memory and expects to continue in its "mission to carry forward his spirit of spreading the universality and abounding love of classical music across the world," according to its website.

    During his career, Van Cliburn played for every American president since Harry Truman. He received numerous honors over the years, including the Order of Friendship from Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2004. In 2011, Van Cliburn earned the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.

    Luciano Pavarotti


    Singer (1935–2007)



    Born on October 12, 1935, on the outskirts of Modena in north-central Italy, tenor Luciano Pavarotti made his operatic debut at the Teatro Reggio Emilia in 1961, performing as "Rodolfo" in La Boheme. He then made his international debut at the Royal Opera House in London in 1963, and, two years later, made his American debut in the Miami production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. Pavarotti went on to become a hugely popular and internationally known opera star, achieving a large following due to his recordings and television appearances, and ultimately helping expand the popularity of opera worldwide. He died in Modena in 2007, at the age of 71.

    Early Life

    Luciano Pavarotti, known for his larger-than-life showmanship that helped expand the popularity of opera, was born on October 12, 1935, on the outskirts of Modena in north-central Italy. The son of a baker and amateur singer, Pavarotti's family was crowded into a two-room apartment. By 1943, World War II had forced the family into a rented single room in the countryside.


    Pavarotti wanted to be a soccer star, but found himself enjoying his father's recordings, featuring the popular tenors of the day such as Bjoerling, Tito Schipa and his favorite, Giuseppe Di Stefano. At around the age of 9, he began singing with his father in a small local church choir. He also studied singing with childhood friend Mirella Freni, who later became a star soprano.

    At age 20, Pavarotti traveled with a chorus from his hometown to an international music competition in Wales. The group won first place.

    Operatic Debut

    Pavarotti abandoned a career in school-teaching to dedicate his life to singing. He won the international competition at the Teatro Reggio Emilia in 1961, making his operatic debut there as "Rodolfo" in La Boheme on April 29. He made his international debut in 1963, when he stepped in for tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano in the role of Rodolfo at the Royal Opera House in London.

    Pavarotti then took part in the La Scala tour of Europe (1963-64). His American debut in February 1965, in the Miami production of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, also launched his legendary partnership with Australian soprano Joan Sutherland. It was with Sutherland that Pavarotti took London's Covent Garden and the New York Metropolitan Opera by storm in 1972 with a sparkling production of a Donizetti favorite, La Fille du Regiment.


    Pavarotti's voice and performance were very much in the powerful style of the traditional Italian tenor. He quickly became internationally known as a concert performer, achieving a large following due to his many recordings and television appearances.

    In 1982, Pavarotti appeared in the film Yes, Giorgio. That same year, he published a volume of an autobiography.


    Pavarotti's participation in the Three Tenors with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras was hugely successful, and has been credited with bringing classical music to the masses at a level never seen previously. In addition to performing with the group, he shared the stage with several rock stars, including Eric Clapton and U2 frontman Bono, and with pop stars such as Celine Dion and the Spice Girls.

    Personal Life

    During the Bosnia war, Pavarotti and Bono collected humanitarian aid. The famous opera singer also worked with the late Princess Diana of England to raise money to help ban land mines worldwide. In 2005, Pavarotti was granted the freedom of the city of London, and received a Red Cross Award for Services to Humanity.

    Pavrotti performed "Nessun Dorma" during his last major performance, at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, in February 2006.

    While preparing to resume his 40-city farewell tour in July 2006, Pavrotti underwent emergency surgery at a New York hospital to remove a pancreatic tumor. The tenor underwent another two weeks of treatment in August 2007, at a hospital in his hometown of Modena, Italy. He was released two weeks before his death, attended to at home by cancer specialists.

    Pavarotti died in Modena on September 6, 2007, at the age of 71. He was survived by four daughters—three with his first wife Adua and one with his second wife, Nicoletta Mantovani—and one granddaughter.

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