Eminent Introductory Post: Irene Joliot-Curie

She sacrificed herself to the aid of soldiers in WW1, discovered artificial radioactivity, and earned the second Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to a woman. Got appointed as the representative for a university. Became a member of the Legion of Honour, World Peace Council, and National Committee of the Union of French Women. Often overshadowed by her more famous mother, Irene Joliot-Curie was just as much of an eminent person.

When I was faced with the quandary of choosing only one eminent person, I had the toughest time.  Famous figures such as Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, and Anne Frank all instinctively came to mind. Realizing I can’t genuinely connect to any of them, I meticulously analyzed every page of my giant library book, looking for influential women in science. Although I recognized names such as Blackwell and Marie Curie, I had no idea there were so many other significant people. Typically, it seemed that the credit for their successions was just given to their male counterparts.  Eventually, I settled on Joliot-Curie because other than her scientific achievements, she impacted her society by all the ways she advocated for underprivileged women and people whose safety was affected during the war. While her family’s fame and her mother’s guidance was crucial to her upbringing, she made the most of having such great resources and became a wondrous role model.

The following table is a comparison of Irene and me.

Irene Joliot Curie Me
Identifies as female Identifies as female
Caucasian Caucasian
Born in France, temporarily lived in Switzerland Born in Russia, lives in Canada
Passionate about science Passionate about science
wealthy Middle class
Atheist Atheist
Enrolled in gifted education as a child Enrolled in gifted education as a child
Is significant in many organizations Definitely not significant
Experienced war Didn’t experience war

 

In grade 7, I had a science project for which I chose to research nuclear power. While I did it solely for the sake of being unique, after weeks of research, I was completely struck by my newly developed curiosity for a subject so foreign to me. I chose my eminent woman around the theme of science. While I can connect to her because I would like to be in the same field when I grow up, one can only dream of being anything like her overall. Science appeals to me because the concepts and explanations are quite peculiar yet totally systematic- and everything in the world depends on it. People, like Irene, dedicate their life to research on their singular trust in themselves to succeed. On top of her laboratory work, she advocated for change in the world with that little bit of spare time she had left. Such eminence would only be achieved with the determination that it takes to balance the life of a prominent scientist and executive member of multiple honorary organizations. I assume that such a job would not be easy in today’s world because our tasks have subjectively grown more and more time-consuming.

Many new learning opportunities await me as I face the difference barriers between her and me. Not living through war-like trauma, not having a famous bloodline, and being in a largely different environment allows me to get to know more about history and science. My gain of information won’t make up for my lack of experience, but only make me more vigilant on the lookout for data.

By the end of Eminent, I am hoping to be able to specialize in my person and the scientific side of her discoveries. Importantly, I look forward to experiencing autonomous learning and developing my speaking and time management skills. Although nervous, I am also excited to dive right into this new journey.

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