My Achievements: Marie Curie

Maria Sklodowska was born on the 7th November 1867 in Warsaw, to parents; Ladislas and Bronsitwa, who were both teachers.  Disaster struck the family when she was eleven, her mother Bronsitwa died from tuberculosis.

Marie worked as a tutor and governess, and studied physics, chemistry and maths alongside her job.  In 1891 she moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne.

In 1893, she had attained her master’s degree in Physics, and Mathematics in 1894, and received a commission to study steel and their magnetic properties.

She shared a lab with French Physicist Pierre Curie, their work complimented each other, and they married.

Marie Curie became fascinated by Henri Becquerel, and his work with uranium in relation to X-Rays by Wilhelm Roentgen.  Curie started experiments herself with uranium, taking Becquerel’s thoughts a stage further.  She discovered rays from uranium, always remained constant, based on the element’s atomic structure.  So the word radioactivity was born to describe the phenomena.

In 1898, with the assistance of her husband, Marie and Pierre Curie had discovered a radioactive element: Polonium  along with that of Radium.  In 1902, they announced they had produced a decigram of radium.

In 1903 Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize for her work in Physics, along with her husband Pierre and Henri Becquerel for studies in the field of radioactivity.

In 1906 Pierre Curie died in Paris.  Despite her grief, she continued his works alongside her own, becoming a Professor at the Sorbonne.  

In 1911, Marie Curie won her second Nobel Prize for her works in the field of Chemistry.

At the outbreak of World War One, she championed the use of her portable X-Ray machines for use in the field.

On the 4th July 1934, Marie Curie died at the Sancellemoz Sanatorium in Passy, France from aplastic anemia, caused by prolonged exposure to radium.

Marie Curie made many scientific discoveries in her lifetime, which would benefit man’s future development.

In 1995, Marie and Pierre Curie were interred in the Pantheon in Paris, reserved for France’s greatest minds.

Marie and Pierre achievements continued with their daughter Irene Joliot-Curie born in 1897, who won a Nobel Prize for her work in the field of Chemistry, and shared the honour with husband Frederick Joliot on the study of Synthesis of Radioactive Elements.

Penicillin -A landmark discovery that saved millions of lives — BiotechTrends

The world has never before witnessed the colossal spending of time and money for research and technology development as it does in the current scenario. It is the consequence of the instrumental research of the 19th and 20th centuries that eventually paved the way for modern science, which now employs more than half a million […]

Penicillin -A landmark discovery that saved millions of lives — BiotechTrends

Alexander Fleming: Penicillin

Alexander Fleming was born on the 6th August 1881 in Lochfield, Ayrshire, Scotland.  In 1901 studied at St.Mary’s Hospital Medical School, and in 1908 received a gold medal for achieving the status of top medical student.

His career plan was to become a surgeon, but a temporary position showed itself at St.Mary’s Inoculation Department in the field of Bacteriology.  He worked under Sir Almroth Edward Wright, understanding the field of vaccine therapy.

From 1914-1918, he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, as a bacteriologist with Almroth Wright in Boulogne, France.  His research revealed that antiseptics did more harm than good, as the body’s lack of immunity to break down bacteria reduced.  He concluded soldiers were dying from antiseptic treatment, and put forward the idea, it would be more effective to keep wounds dry and clean … his suggestions were mostly ignored.

In 1918 Fleming became assistant director of St.Mary’s Inoculation Department.

In 1921, Fleming discovered Lysozyme an antiseptic enzyme be present in body fluids.  When a drop was added with bacteria, it had been dissolved.  This was the first step in breaking down mild bacteria and the understanding of the human immune system.

In September of 1928, he discovered a culture; Staphylococcus aureus, had been contaminated with mould, when left out under normal conditions (Penicillium Notatum) and colonies of Staphylococci around the mould had been destroyed.

Further development, with Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, scientists from the University of Oxford, isolated and purified Penicillin.

During World War Two, Penicillin came into use on the battlefield in the field of infection control.

In 1945, Alexander Fleming, Howard Florey and Ernst Chain received the Nobel Prize for their work in the field of Physiology and Medicine.

In 1946 Fleming was appointed head of St.Mary’s Inoculation department, served as President of the Society for General Microbiology.

Alexander Fleming died of a heart-attack on the 11th March 1955 in London.

He left the world with a discovery which would save lives…

Einstein’s Theory of Gravity

One of the more exciting results of Einstein’s theory of gravity – the so-called general theory of relativity – is the possibility of gravity waves. The force of gravity is in some respects like the force of electricity between charged particles, or the attraction between magnets, but with mass playing the role of charge. When electric charges are violently disturbed, such as in a radio transmitter, electromagnetic waves are generated. The reason for this can readily be visualized. If an electric charge is pictured as surrounded by a field, then when the charge is moved the field must also adjust itself to the new position. However, it cannot do this instantaneously: the theory of relativity forbids information to travel faster than light, so the outlying regions of the field do not know that the charge has moved until at least the light-travel time from the charge. It follows that the field becomes buckled, or distorted, because when the charge first moves the remote regions of the field do not change whereas the field in the proximity of the charge is quick to respond. The effect is to send a kink of electric and magnetic force travelling outward through the field at the speed of light. This electromagnetic radiation transports energy away from the charge into the surrounding space. If the charge is wobbled to and fro in a systematic way, the field distortion wobbles likewise, and the spreading kink takes on the features of a wave. Electromagnetic waves of this sort are experienced by us as visible light, radio waves, heat radiation, x-rays and so on, according to their wavelength. 

In analogy to the production of electromagnetic waves we might expect the disturbance of massive bodies to set up kinks in the surrounding gravitational field, which will also spread outwards in the form of gravity waves. In this case, though, the ripples are kinks in space itself, because in Einstein’s theory gravity is a manifestation of distorted spacetime. Gravity waves can therefore be visualized as undulations of space, radiating away from the source of disturbance.

Poverty in the 19th Century

Life in the 19th century was hard for those who had the misfortune to live through it.  Families tended to be much larger than these times, people having ten children or more.  However, it was an accepted part of life, that some would die in their early years, from childhood diseases.

It was hard to put food on the table, for work was scarce, housing prices, ever increasing, and wages low.  Families were forced to share rooms to pay the rent.

The situation in Britain was not helped by those fleeing Ireland in their thousands, amidst their country’s potato famine, and settling here.  So the demand for work and housing grew out of control, and poverty became part of everyday life.

What didn’t help was people’s attitude to those worse off than themselves.  They believed in a state of self-help, through hard work and thrift.  If you were poor, it was your own fault, and you were to blame for your poverty…nobody else.

By the end of the 19th century, poverty accounted for at least twenty-five per cent of Britain’s population.  Most living below subsistence level, of which some ten percent were unable to afford basic necessities.  Some were lucky enough to put a meal a day on the table, whilst others went for days without food, hoping for charity from friends and neighbours.

It reminds me of a story, my mother and grandfather often spoke of.  Aunt Jane lived in Helstone, Cornwall and had ten children, during one of the worst times of this country’s period of poverty.  As the story goes to the best of my memory, if any of her neighbour’s were out of work, she would cook an extra fruit or meat pie, so they had food on the table, and the little ones would not go hungry.  It was her way of instilling charity into her own children.

In 1834, the Poor Law came into effect, it was the Victorian answer, how to deal with poverty.  It became the responsibility of parishes, to join together, creating regional workhouses, where aid could be applied for.

Civil liberties were denied, husbands, wives and children were separated from each other, and their human dignity was destroyed.  They were given unpleasant hard work, and wore uniforms depicting what they were…  The true poor often went to great lengths to avoid these places, for it was said, they were no better than prisons.

Charles Dickens father got into debt, and the family was imprisoned in one of these workhouses, and for years afterwards he became a champion for the poor.

William Booth formed the Salvation Army in 1878, which went out and administered help to the poor and needy.

Some schools provided poor and malnourished children with a free breakfast.  For a child who was hungry could not learn; that was a guaranteed way of getting pupils to attend school.

The Boot Fund was formed in 1890, a charity providing boots or shoes for poor children.

More and more people’s consciences were pinged by the sight of poor and destitute children living rough, on the streets of London.  They were forced to live by their wits, and crime was the name of the game if they were going to eat. 

Just like “Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens” and the character Fagin, who recruited children and trained them as pickpockets, exchanging food and shelter for goods the children stole.

Poverty in England has been with us many centuries, and people’s attitude towards poverty has changed over the centuries.  For in the 18th century at least fifty per cent of the population lived below the bread line, and wore nothing upon their feet.  By the 19th century it had improved, and only twenty-five per cent were in dire need.  With the coming of the 20th century, people had come to accept poverty as part of life.

If we look at the country today, we can’t say poverty has been eradicated, it has improved with the passing of each century… but it will never be wiped out in our times…

Humanitarian: Raoul Wallenberg…

Raoul Wallenberg was born on the 4th August 1912, into a family of bankers, diplomats and politicians in Stockholm, Sweden.  His interests lay in architecture.  He went on to graduate in the Russian language in 1930 and in 1931 studied architecture at the Ann Arbor Michigan University gaining a bachelor’s degree in science and architecture in 1935.

He returned to Sweden in 1935, seeking employment, but the options were limited.  Gustav Wallenberg, his grandfather arranged six months work in Cape Town then onto Hafia, Palenstine working in a Dutch Bank.

It was here, Raoul had his eyes opened for him, with regards to actions taken by Germany, from Jews he had come into contact with, who had fled Hitler’s new Germany.

He travelled through Nazi-occupied France and Germany, for a Swedish based import and export firm, owned by Koloman Lauer, an Hungarian Jew.

In the spring of 1944, the world understood what Hitler’s final solution to the Jewish problem actually meant.  In the May, eyewitness accounts of what was taking place at Auschwitz reached the world.

Germany transported Jews out of Hungary after the country’s occupation by German forces on the 19th March 1944, sending them to Poland and certain death.

Budapest feared what was to come for them.  The Swedish Legation in Budapest, arranged through Hungarian authorities a passport, as issued to Swedish citizens.  What started out as 700 was suddenly running out of control, for thousands of Jews required these passports for survival.

Raoul was recruited by the U.S. War Refugee and in June 1944 appointed Secretary of the Swedish diplomatic mission in Budapest, taking up his post in July 1944.

Raoul Wallenberg struggled against the German authorities, and proved to be a thorn in their side an unwelcome witness to their atrocities.

Wallenberg created so called “Swedish Houses” which hung the flag of Sweden over its door, advertising to all, it is Swedish territory.  It was a place where Jews could seek shelter.  Passports were issued, stating they be under the protection of Sweden’s neutrality, it didn’t take long for other countries to open their houses, offering shelter to the Jews.

When Russian forces arrived in Budapest, they found 120,000 Jews had survived the round-up by German forces.

On the 17th January 1945, Raoul Wallenburg was escorted to the Soviet Headquarters in Debrecen, East of Budapest, never to be seen or heard from again.

According to Soviet prison officials, he is believed to have died in 1947, yet the exact date and circumstances of his death, remains unknown to this day…

If one travels to Jerusalem, there stands “Yad Vashem” a memorial to murdered Jews of World War Two.  In the “Avenue of the Righteous” stands a line of trees, to non-Jewish individuals who risked their lives to save Jews.  A plaque on one of the trees is dedicated to Raoul Wallenberg.

In 1981, Raoul Wallenberg was declared an honary citizen of the United States, and in 1985 of Canada, and in 1986 of Israel.

Over the last 65 years, both Sweden and the United States continue to ask the same question, time and time again; what happened to Raoul Wallenberg?

Could he still be alive? If so he would be a very old man.

The Plague: Black Death

The Black Death is believed to have originated in the 6th and 7th centuries and called “The Plague of Justinian.”  According to historical facts, some 40% of Constantinople’s people died from the plague as it ran wild, with no known cure. It disappeared as easily as it arrived.

Black Death Plague reared its head once again in the 14th century, in the arid plains of Central Asia, in regions close to China.  From there it travelled along the Silk Road, reaching Crimea in 1346.  The disease was carried by fleas, which would live on the coats of black rats, which travelled upon merchant ships.

According to weather conditions in the early part of the 14th century, Earth underwent a period of extreme cold weather, as temperatures plummeted well below what would be considered normal temperatures for that time of year.

  • In 1345 the plague had reached the Volga River.
  • By 1346 it had reached Caucasus and Crimea.
  • By 1347 it had spread to Constantinople.

There was no control against this disease as it spread from village to village, town to town, and country to country, as thousands died, day by day.  The disease was known to travel by sea and land, with no available solution to stop it, in its tracks.

  • By the winter of 1347 it had reached Italy, and reports were coming in, it was running rampant through the streets of Rome and Florence.
  • January 1348 the plague had reached Marseilles, for the dead were lying where they died; in houses and on the streets.
  • It travelled along the Rhine, and reached Germany in 1348 and the low countries.
  • By the middle of 1348, this disease had struck Paris, Bordeax, Lyon and London.
  • Norway was hit by the plague in May 1349.
  • The Eastern European Countries in 1350.
  • It reached Russia in 1351.

What was this disease that was responsible for the killing of millions; Bubonic Plague an organism carried by rodents and fleas.  The process from first symptoms of fever to death lasts three to four days at most … this disease is swift and terrifying.

Bubonic Plague was considered a fatal disease of the 14th century; if the victim, the patient is suffering from malnutrition, it is a much more deadly disease.

There are two types of plague known; Septicaemic which attacks the blood and Pneumonic known to attack the lungs, and is airborne.

In October of 1347, twelve Genoese trading vessels arrived at the harbour of Messina in Sicily.  The sailors bore a disease that if anyone spoke or touched them; the disease attacked their body also.  The infection spread one to another with such an alarming rate.  Their bodies were covered with small black boils, and they would vomit blood.  Once infected death was a welcome release to the pain, and death would take place in three to four days.

When the officials of Messina discovered this disease has no cure and originated from the fleet of trading ships sitting in their harbour, they were ordered to leave.  Yet, it was too late; it had taken hold of the inhabitants of Messina, and spread like wildfire.

It didn’t take long for news to spread, that Messina had become a plague infected port, and residents fled their homes, seeking safety far away.  Some settled in vineyards and fields, others descended upon the town of Catania.  They didn’t realise they had become carriers of the plague.

The further the plague carriers of Messina spread through the island of Sicily, so the plague was expanded, becoming completely out of control.  The disease infested Catania in late October of 1347 and by April 1348, no living person remained.

The Pope sought help from medical scientists of Paris in 1348, in dealing with such a deadly disease, which was responsible for deaths on a large scale.

Their reply wasn’t the answer one had expected, they blamed the cause upon the planets; the conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the sign of Aquarius had taken place in 1345.  This had caused hot moist conditions, and so the Earth had exhaled poisonous vapours.

They recommended no eating of meats, fish or poultry.  Olive oil was dangerous and stress was to be avoided.  They suggested one spends time with aromatic plants and herbs that had been grown naturally.

What actually worked was quarantine of one’s self from fleas and avoidance of anyone showing signs of disease.

Pope Clement VI from Avignon sat between two fires, thus the plagues bacillus was being destroyed by the heat, and the air he breathed was pure and clean.

Whilst the plague spread from town to town in Germany a new sect arose; the Flagellants, and believed they had the answer.

They stripped themselves to the waist, and marched through towns, undertaking penance, by inflicting punishments on their body to atone for their evils of the world.  They flogged themselves until they drew blood.  All they did was attract the attention of the Pope in October 1349, who condemned their actions, and outlawed it.

Man did not understand the biology of this disease and believed wrongly that Black Death was a divine punishment upon them by God for their wrong doings; Greed, Blasphemy, Heresy and Worldliness.

In turn they believed the Jewish communities were to blame, and many Jews were massacred in cities running close to the Rhine River.  Pope Clement VI stepped in to forbid the slaughter of Jews in 1348.  Yet his words fell on deaf ears, for in 1349 some two hundred Jews were burned to death in Strassbourg.  So it was during the 14th century, the Jewish communities were being pushed out of Western Europe and settled in Poland.

14th century chroniclers stated, that this plague had affected everyone, whether they were rich or poor, young or old.  Many lands and cities lay desolate.

This loss of life in such high numbers, and to such a disease, with no known cure, brought utter despair.  For it is believed eighty out of every hundred died at the height of the disease.  Many men of learning believed this marked the end of the world, it must have seemed so, as many died around them; friends, family and fellow scientists.

One would have expected to see political issues come into play, as the disease spread through country after country, killing thousands each and every day.  Yet the only reigning monarch to be struck down and die from the plague was King Alfonso XI of Castile.  Other’s considered as lesser notables of their countries to be struck down and die from this disease included The Queen of Aragon and The Queen of France.

The Hundred Years War was suspended in 1348, due to high mortality rates amongst the military, caused by the plague, yet it was reconvened once the plague had passed.

The Black Death plague became one of the worst pandemics in human history, killing an estimated two hundred million people between 1347-1350.

It is a known fact, that a ship left the port of Bordeaux, at a time when itself was infected with the disease, and arrived at the English port of Melcombe Regis on the 8th May 1348.  The epidemic broke out in early June.  The disease, not only infected land, but ships, some of which docked at Bristol, Grimsby, Colchester and London, increasing the spread of the disease.

  • Black Death broke out in Melcombe Regis in June 1349.
  • Black Death infected Bristol in August 1848, killing all 10,000 souls.
  • Black Death infects London and by September 1348, they witnessed the full force of the disease.
  • October 1348, Winchester is infected.
  • The plague spreads throughout East Anglia and the Midlands in Jan – Feb of 1349.
  • Wales struck down by the plague in April 1349.
  • Ireland struck down in July 1349 by plague carrying ship docked in Ireland from Wales

This Black Death plague ran amok through Ireland.  If one touched the dead or sick, this deadly infection would attack the uninfected, and death followed quickly.  Priests could not visit the sick.  Burials of the dead did not take place individually but in mass.

This Black Death plague infected the population of Ireland, and between 1348-1350 some 30-45% would die.  Villages were stripped, and scarcely anybody was left alive.

The Scots hearing of this cruel plague, attacked the English, they saw it as their chance to invade.   In 1349, they gathered their armies in the forest of Selkirk and crossed the border in England and attacked Durham.  What seemed like an open opportunity to them was doomed with disaster, as 5,000 of their warriors died on English soil from the plague.  The remainder of their army made in home by the autumn of 1349.

The harsh Scottish weather enhanced the spread of this disease, and an outbreak of pneumonic plague and septicaemia ran rampant through Scotland in the spring of 1350.

Early signs saw the plague was dying out in September 1350, and by the end of the year no new cases were being reported.

Further outbreaks occurred in 1361-62, 1369, 1379-83, and through the early years of the 15th century.

England had gone through a disease, which saw high numbers of deaths, which would see a new problem arise; Famine would grip the country.

The Plague of Children, a disease that ran rampant through England, which only affected them. First seen in1361 and by 1364 extinct.

The Black Death plague is not extinct, for it is still with us, in a dormant state.  It is quite common in areas of rodent populations.  Fortunately we have a cure for it, but we have to remember, this disease moves quickly… so we always need to be on our guard.

Three Archbishop’s of Canterbury are known to have died from the Black Death Plague.  In the southern cloister in Westminster Abbey a black slab was laid, dedicated to Simon de Bircheston the Abbot of Westminster and 27 of his monks who died from the plague, and are buried here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury; John Stratford died in May 1348.  His successor; John Offord died in 1349 before being ordained to the post of Archbishop of Canterbury.  Within months his successor Thomas Bradwardine died in August 1349.

According to historical accounts, a bright comet, shot across the skyline of London in the winter of 1664… Fear abounded, questioning what events were to take place.

17th century London was much different, than we see it today.  It was surrounded by a city wall, and gates located at; Ludgate, Newgate, Moorgate, Bishopsgate, Aldersgate and Cripplegate, which covered an area of some four-hundred and fifty acres.

Property varied from large houses with many servants, to town houses, and timbered framed Tudor styled houses and tenement styled properties to house the poor of that time.

Sanitation … what sanitation!  For they had open drains, you have to remember sewers did not come into use, until the 19th century.  Sewage, rubbish and slops were tossed into the streets.

London was overcrowded as pedestrians and horse-drawn hackney carriages fought their way along roads.

Shanty towns were built outside the city walls, they consisted of wooden shacks, and sanitation, did not exist, so it became a breeding ground for diseases.  It is believed some 250,000 people resided in these rat-infested slums.

As with many diseases at that time, “Bubonic Plague” was not understood, but feared by many… they would blame the cause on anything from weather, livestock sickness or abnormal animal behaviour.

In 1662 an approximate census, stated that some 384,000 people were believed to be living within the City of London, and by 1665 it had increased to 460,000.

Reports of the Black Death Plague reached the ears of those in England in the early part of the 1660’s.

Ships destined for London from the continent, arriving from the autumn of 1663, were quarantined on Canvey Island for thirty days before travelling up river to London Docks.  In May 1664 quarantines were increased to forty days as the continental plague increased.

From 1603 “The Bills of Mortality” were published on a regular basis, which showed registered recorded deaths, as a result of the plague:

1603 = 33,347 plague victims.

1625 = 41,313 plague victims.

1640-46 = 11,000 plague victims.

1647 = 3,597 plague victims.

The Great Plague of London, first infested the docklands on the outskirts of London and the parish of St.Giles in the Fields, areas consisting of the poor, living in poor sanitation, and housing.  Firstly in December 1664 and then again in February 1665 which totalled up to 400 deaths per week during this period, yet few were officially listed as plague deaths.

Yet quarantine rules were implemented, any house found with infected inhabitants, was sealed shut with them inside.

As the warm weather arrived in May, so the deaths started increasing.

By July 1665, the plague had become rampant in the City of London, and King Charles II, like many other important people, took their families out of the city.

Many poor died from this wretched plague, some from starvation and then thirst caused by the hot summer of that year.

As the number of deaths rose, burial grounds filled quickly … public alarmed by the number of bodies being taken for burial.  Streets had become empty, except for carts carrying away the dead bodies.

Some 2,000 were dying at the hottest time of the summer, each and every week, by September the number had risen to 7,000 per week and the plague was well out of control.

By late autumn, the death toll started dropping and by February 1666, it was deemed safe for the King to return to London.

The occasional plague death, continued until the summer of 1666, and the last officially recorded death from the plague was registered in 1679.

The estimated death rate of the London plague is believed to have reached some 200,000 souls.

The Great Plague of London affected the poor, as they had nowhere else to go… 

The plague may have died… more than likely just dormant, so we should be on our guard in case it should return.

The plague is reported of having haunted many countries, people feared that Black Death would return and strike them down.

  • The Plague of London (1603)
  • The Italian Plague (1629-1631)
  • The Great Plague of Saville (1647-1652)
  • The Great Plague of London (1665-1666)
  • The Great Plague of Vienna (1679)
  • The Great Plague of Marseille (1720-1722)
  • The Great Plague of Europe (1738)
  • The Russian Plague (1770-1772)

Since the late 1770’s the Black Death plague gradually disappeared through all parts of Europe… Hopefully it will never rear its head again, yet we have to be on our guard at all times…