Marie Curie and names

baby name_toned Selecting a name is not something that we take lightly, for whatever it is that you are naming…may it be a baby, a pet, or even a website, we want it to be received with favor. Names for children are often given because we wish to pay respect to another person. It may be a name for an individual who is alive or deceased. Some parents choose names for their newborn after a famous person or just select one that seems to suit that new member by the way they smile; you know that angelic divine baby face gurgle… Pets are often named because of the way they look…like Spot or Fluffy; or the way we wish them to be perceived by temperament such as Lover; and then some pets are named for the way they behave such as Frisky.

A name for an invention or gadget is often delivered with the intent of giving the user a sneak peek at its purpose …like the ever- famous “Salad Spinner” and “Mr. Coffee”. Some names as in a business however, really don’t do anything except perhaps glorify… such as “McDonalds” or “ Trump Tower”.

The idea of pondering names are prevalent as far back as we wish to travel…for we can see that Shakespeare entertained the notion when he wrote the dialogue in Romeo and Juliet Act ii Scene II…
“…What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,..”
Here Juliet tells Romeo that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, and that she loves the person who is called “Montague”, not the Montague name nor the Montague family.

Whatever name and for whatever reason we choose, it is most certain that time was or will be spent mulling over that decision. I for one am pleased with the prospect…for the name selected is the one that will carry you for a very long time…

Curie on bank note And so for today’s blog I bring back Marie Curie, world renowned Polish physicist and chemist who together with her husband, Pierre Curie, discovered two new elements… radium and polonium. In July 1898 they were able to announce to the world the definitive discovery of one of these substances…the problem was what to call it, whereby Pierre enlisted his wife to name it.

Let take a moment to read the words of Madame Curie taken from the Proceeding of the Academy …remembering that although she was in France, her heart belonged to her beloved homeland, Poland.

“ We believe the substance we have extracted from pitchblende contains a metal not yet observed, related to bismuth by its analytical properties. If the existence of this new metal is confirmed we propose to call it polonium, from the name of the original country of one of us.”

Esteemed thinker: Marie Curie

Marie curie_toned The first time you looked through a telescope and saw craters of the moon and the first time you placed a celery stalk in water mixed with food coloring and its leaves turned from green to blue… you knew you were in the presence of magic. Oh, not the fake kind of magic where your Uncle was hiding the coin in his other hand…even the ‘young’ you understood this was a trick! No, it’s the kind of magic that seduces you, a yearning to learn more … it’s the special magic that nagged at your youthful imagination to find out what makes the leaves turn colors in autumn, why does the wind whistle through the oak’s canopy, and how is it that the firefly wears a little light that goes on at night… the real magic that comes alive with knowledge.

Just perhaps this is how it must be for the life of the scientist; a quest to discover or uncover magic. Of course I am using magic as a metaphor in relationship to scientific discovery, however just for a moment think about it …it often seems like such work would be aligned with the spirit of wonderment… almost a childishly magical realm…

And so with the thoughts of the magic in science, today’s blog brings you the esteemed thinker: Marie Curie; given name Maria Salomea Skłodowska and best known as Madame Curie (1867-1934)… legendary woman scientist… pioneer in the study of radioactivity. Born in Russian occupied Poland, at the age of fifteen she obtained a higher education (forbidden to girls in Poland) from a clandestine, revolving academy for women taught in private homes. In 1891 she went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne where she met and married the French professor and physicist Pierre Curie (1895). Their life together was mutually respected whereby their research and discoveries led the way for future generations. Marie Curie’s life is nothing short of a heroine, having earned two Nobel Prizes in Physics and in Chemistry and culminating in the tragic death from radium; the very discovery that brought her fame.

So, let us take pause to hear a bit of her words during a debate she presided over in Madrid (1933) on “The Future of Culture”. We will celebrate this extraordinary woman with a brief but solitary moment out of own busy day…

“… I am among those who think that science has great beauty. A scientist in his laboratory is not only a technician: *he is also a child placed before natural phenomena which impress him like a fairy tale. We should not allow it to be believed that all scientific progress can be reduced to mechanisms, machines, gearings, even though such machinery also has its own beauty. Neither do I believe that the spirit of adventure runs any risk of disappearing in our world. If I see anything vital around me, it is precisely that spirit of adventure, which seems indestructible and it akin to curiosity… ”

* it is curious that Madame Curie only used the masculine pronouns ‘he’ and ‘him’ although she herself was a great and renown scientist at this time in her life. However, when we reflect back with the knowledge that women in France had only gained the right to vote in 1944 (by the order of 21 April 1944 adopted by the provisional government of General de Gaulle in Algiers) it really is not too curious after-all…