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We all know about Nuclear reactors, which were earlier known as atomic pile. They are used to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. These nuclear reactors are used in nuclear power plants for electricity generation and propulsion of ships. Do you know the principle behind Nuclear Reactor?

The basic principle behind the working of these reactors is radioactivity. Radioactivity is a process by which a nucleus of an unstable atom loses energy by emitting radiation. The radiation that is produced in the nuclear reactors controls fission reactions to produce energy and new substances from the fission products.

Radioactivity has various other applications as well. Tracers that are used in the field of medicine for the purpose of diagnosis are nothing but radioactive elements. The other common applications of radiation is sterilization of food and medical / surgical instruments. Trained technicians rely on radiations for the purpose of imaging materials and products. For example dentists use radiation to X-Ray our teeth and cavities.

There are many scientists who contributed in radiactivity research, Irene Joliot Curie is one of those great Scientists.

Most of you must have read about the great French physicists Marie curie and Pierre curie who discovered Uranium and Polonium. They have contributed a lot in radioactivity research. Irene Joliot Curie was born to Marie Curie and Pierre Curie on September 12th 1857.  She was born during the days of radioactivity research; in fact she grew up with radioactivity research around her. She dedicated all her life in studies. Early in her childhood she was educated by her mother for few years, but later she went to university of Paris for further studies. In the year 1918, while she was pursuing her doctoral degree she assisted her mother at the institute of radium of the Paris University.

After she started studying at the faculty of science in Paris, she served as a nurse radiographer during the First World War. She graduated with a thesis on the alpha rays of polonium in the year 1925. The same year she met Fredric Joliot, who was also assisting at the Institute Of Radium. In the year 1926 Irene got married to Fredric Joliot. They had two children; one son, Pierre and one daughter, Helene. Irene formed a great scientific research team along with her husband which focused on natural and artificial radioactivity. She shared a Nobel Prize with her husband in the year 1935 for the synthesis of new radioactive elements. Irene had earned many other honors apart from Nobel Prize.

Her research on the action of neutrons on heavy metals was a very important step in the discovery of Uranium fission. She was appointed as a lecturer in the year 1932 and then became a professor at the faculty of science in Paris in 1937. She served in the French cabinet as undersecretary of state for Scientific Research in 1936. She became the Director of Radium Institute in 1946.  She worked as commissioner for Atomic Energy for six years therefore she played an important role in its creation and in the construction of French atomic pile. Irene was concerned with the establishment of large centre for nuclear physics, Orsay. She personally worked out plans for its construction. After her death the construction activities were taken up by her husband F. Joliot.

Irene was always interested in social and intellectual advancement of women therefore she served as a member of the commite National de l’Union des Femmes Francais, and the World Peace Council. She suffered with leukemia which she contracted during the course of her research work. Irene passed away on 17th march 1956, in Paris.


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