Stefania Mărăcineanu was a pioneering woman in the field of radioactivity discovery and research. The Romanian physicist’s 140th birthday is commemorated in today’s Doodle.
Mărăcineanu earned a degree in physical and chemical science in 1910 and began her work as a teacher at Bucharest’s Central School for Girls. Mărăcineanu received a scholarship from the Romanian Ministry of Science while he was there. She chose to continue her studies at the Radium Institute in Paris as a graduate student.
Under the guidance of physicist Marie Curie, the Radium Institute swiftly became a global hub for the study of radioactivity. Mărăcineanu began work on her PhD thesis on polonium, a chemical element discovered by Curie.
Mărăcineanu found that the half-life of polonium seemed to be depending on the sort of metal it was placed on during her investigation. This made her worry if the polonium’s alpha particles had converted some of the metal’s atoms into radioactive isotopes. Her work resulted in the most likely first instance of artificial radioactivity.
Mărăcineanu enrolled at Paris’ Sorbonne University to complete her PhD in physics, which she completed in just two years! She returned to Romania after four years at the Astronomical Observatory in Meudon, where she established the country’s first laboratory for the research of radioactivity.
Mărăcineanu dedicated herself to artificial rain research, which included a journey to Algeria to test her findings. She also looked into the relationship between earthquakes and rainfall, and was the first to discover that the epicentre of an earthquake has a considerable increase in radioactivity in the days preceding up to an earthquake.
Irène Currie, Marie Curie’s daughter, and her husband were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in 1935 for their discovery of artificial radioactivity. Mărăcineanu did not object to receiving the Nobel Prize, but she did request that her contribution to the discovery be recognized. Mărăcineanu’s work was recognised by the Romanian Academy of Sciences in 1936, when she was elected as a Director of Research, but she never garnered international acclaim for the discovery.
The original chemical laboratory in the Radium Institute, where Mărăcineanu worked, is now in the Curie Museum in Paris. Today’s Doodle celebrates the 140th birthday of Stefania Mărăcineanu and pays tribute to her legacy.