Pierre Curie (1859-1906)
Pierre Curie was a French physicist. He is best known for discovering radium with his wife Marie Curie in 1888. Radium is a radioactive substance that was used for cancer treatment before the Second World War.
Curie began his career studying the electrical effects of crystals. This research became important within the development of ECG and ultrasound for medical diagnosis.
Curie was born in Paris and was taught at home. Aged 16 he studied physics at the Sorbonne university. He graduated in 1878, but could not afford to do a doctorate in physics. Instead, he worked as a demonstrator in the physics laboratory until 1882.
Pierre and his brother Jacques began investigating electrical properties of crystals. They discovered crystals generated electricity when compressed. This was called the piezoelectric effect. Curie later investigated magnetism, and showed that magnetic properties changed at a specific temperature. This temperature is now called the Curie point.
In 1895, Curie married Maria Sklodowska and the pair studied radioactive substances. Although they carried out research in poorly equipped laboratories, in 1898 they discovered two radioactive substances: radium and polonium. Curie and his wife were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903.
Pierre Curie was killed in a street accident in 1906.