For her doctorate in science, Marie Curie decided to focus on ray emissions of Uranium, coining the term “radioactivity” to describe the element’s property. Studying the element, she discovered that uranium ores, pitchblende and chalcolite, were much more radioactive than pure uranium, and concluded that this was due to undiscovered elements. Joined by her husband, they attempted to separate the substances in the minerals only to discover two new elements, first polonium and then radium on December 21st.

It took Marie Curie four more years to isolate pure radium and determine its atomic weight. For her work on radioactivity, Curie received her doctorate in June 1903 and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics along with her husband and Henri Becquerel – the scientist who first discovered radioactivity in 1896.