Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1935
Born in Paris on September 12, 1897, she is the daughter of the scientists Pierre and Marie Curie. During the First World War, she helped her mother with her radiological work and trained both medical and military personnel in the new radiological techniques. She graduated in Physics and Mathematics at the Sorbonne in 1920 and worked for the Radium Institute in Paris where she met the scientist Frédéric Joliot, whom she married in 1926.
In 1934, by bombarding aluminum with polonium sources they discovered artificial radioactivity and received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.
In 1936 she was appointed Undersecretary of State for Scientific Research, when French women had not yet won the right to vote. In 1946 she obtained a professorship in General Physics and Radioactivity at the Sorbonne and became director of the Curie Laboratory at the Radium Institute, the epicenter of the family work.
In 1948 she travelled to the United States where she lectured in favour of the Spanish exiled republicans. Due to her liberal ideas, she was held by the Immigration Service at Ellis Island for 24 hours. When she was freed, Albert Einstein received her at Princeton University.
The Joliot-Curie couple belonged to several pacifist movements and did an important work of social awareness, both of the population and of governments, on the dangerous use of atomic energy for destructive purposes.
Irène devoted the two last years of her life to design a new research centre, the Institute for Nuclear Physics at Orsay. She died on March 17, 1956, at the age of 58, at the Curie Hospital in Paris from a leukemia caused by her constant exposure to radioactive material.