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May 9, 2011

#896: Marie Curie

Marie Curie

Woman: My teacher always told me that if I applied myself, I could become the next Marie Curie.

Zombie Marie Curie: You know, I wish they’d get over me.

Woman: Zombie Marie Curie!

Zombie Marie Curie: Not that I don’t deserve it. These two Nobels ain’t decorative. But I make a sorry role model if girls just see me over and over as the one token lady scientist.

Zombie Marie Curie: Lise Meitner figured out that nuclear fission was happening, while her colleague Otto was staring blankly at their data in confusion, and proved Enrico Fermi wrong in the process. Enrico and Otto both got Nobel Prizes. Lise got a National Women’s Press Club award.

Zombie Marie Curie: They finally named an element after her, but not until 60 years later.

Zombie Marie Curie: Emmy Noether fought past her Victorian-era finishing-school upbringing, pursued mathematics by auditing classes, and, after finally getting a Ph.D, was permitted to teach only as an unpaid lecturer (often under male colleagues’ names).

Woman: Was she as good as them?

Zombie Marie Curie: She revolutionized abstract algebra, filled gaps in relativity, and found what some call the most beautiful, deepest result in theoretical physics.

Woman: Oh.

Zombie Marie Curie: But you don’t become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.

Zombie Marie Curie: So don’t try to be the next me, Noether, or Meitner. Just remember that if you want to do this stuff, you’re not alone.

Woman: Thanks.

Zombie Marie Curie: Also, avoid radium. Turns out it kills you.

Woman: I’ll try.