How Einstein Encouraged Pioneer Scientist Marie Curie To Ignore The Haters

marie-curie

You’re all familiar with the name Madam Marie Curie. She is a pioneer scientist, discovering and naming radium, amongst other discoveries. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, is still the only woman to win it twice, and the only woman to win in multiple sciences. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.

The Polish physicist ironically died in 1934 from excessive exposure to radium, yet the science world would not be the same if it were not for this fearless, persistent woman.

Yet it turns out, learning to “ignore the haters” was a concept that was around long before social media was created. Despite Marie’s ground-breaking discoveries, she was still shunned by the larger science community in her day. Why? Because of her gender and personal life.

In January of 1911, Curie was denied a seat for a physicist in the French Academy of Sciences, which many assume had to do with the fact that she was a woman and an atheist, according to Jezebel. But probably mainly because news had just surfaced that she, a widow, was carrying on a romantic relationship with physicist Paul Langevin, who was married though estranged from his wife. The scandal broke while she was away, and upon her return she found an angry mob in front of her house—Curie and her daughters were driven from her home, forced to stay with friends.

Sounds like she has a lot in common with Anita Sarkeesian, the woman at the center of the Gamergate incident who was also driven from her house because she decided to speak out about sexism in video games, and the internet trolls thought that hacking her and releasing her private details publicly was something she deserved. Oh, and that’s just one example btw…

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It’s frustrating to hear how much the world HAS NOT changed since the turn of the 20th century, but wait, there is hope yet.

Arguably the world’s most brilliant mind and most famous scientist of all time, Albert Einstein, was thankfully as smart as he made out and stood up for Marie in a letter dated 1911, published by Einstein Papers. The German-born physicist and philosopher who is famous for developing the theory of relativity (that E=mc2 thing you probably saw a lot of in science class), wrote to Marie urging her not to listen to the people who were against her, and praised her for her intellect, her drive, and honesty.

We also love that he calls her haters “reptiles”, which could be the equivalent of modern day “trolls”.

It’s such a shame to see how she was shunned by the French Academy of Sciences, and not treated according to her brilliant talent and mind. She is certainly not alone in the way she was treated. We suspect that if women had been respected more throughout history, perhaps classrooms around the world would put equal emphasis on the achievements of both men and women that have changed the world.

einstein-letter-to-marie-curie

The letter may be a recent discovery, but we are compelled to share more about Marie’s history, given that her persona was given such a bad rap in society back in her day. Helen O’Keeffe, marketing manager of Homecare Plus in Dublin, Ireland has been researching the life of Madam Curie and was astonished to find how ill-treated she was.

“She dedicated her life to research and in particular research relating to cancer. I found the story of her life, her accomplishments and how she
dealt with hardships really inspiring,” Helen said to us.

Helen put together this infographic below to share insight into the mind and life of this brilliant woman, who didn’t deserve the hate she received. However it is awesome and somewhat comforting to know that a man like Einstein was willing to risk his own personal reputation to become an ally of Marie.

People often say that revolutionaries and world-changers are amongst the most hated people in their communities. Their ideas are so radical at first that the world cannot understand and has no room for empathy for those who do not fit into the cultural norms. But years later, they are heralded as heroes and role models, much like the early feminists back in the late 1800s in Seneca Falls, NY, who campaigned for the women’s right to vote, despite much opposition from men AND women.

If there is anything we can learn from the life of Marie Curie, it is that hatred, criticism and negativity should never be an indicator that we are doing something wrong, it is an indicator that what we are doing is important, and will one day play a major hand in changing people’s attitudes, and maybe even the world.

For all you ladies facing opposition today, take heart, stand firm, and keep pressing onward toward your goal.

Marie-Curie-Infographic

 

4 Comments

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