I imagine Marie and Pierre Curie, in awe in their laboratory, being slowly killed by the things upon which their lives were built. Marie Curie, born in grinding poverty in Poland to educator parents, fled to Paris to escape repression and pursue an education. She and her husband, Pierre, made their names in their work with radioactive substances and the x-ray. Pierre died tragically in an accident, although his health had also been compromised by exposure to radioactive substances. Marie died in her sixties from an illness suggestive of the effects of radiation. For all of their great discoveries, they were in the end physical victims of the undiscovered power of their chosen research.
Marie Curie's life stands, in some ways, for the principle that precious achievements come at great cost. She did not live as a saint or mythic figure; indeed, her reputation suffered immensely in her time due to her affair with a married colleague. Yet at each turn she devoted herself to the principle that the search for truth was in and of itself a worthy effort--an effort worth spending all that one has to pursue.
I rather like the story of Missy Maloney. Ms. Maloney was an American journalist. Ms. Maloney met Ms. Curie, when Ms. Curie permitted her an extremely rare interview. Upon learning that France did not provide Ms. Curie the radium she needed to further her research, she began a gala campaign to raise the attention and funds for radium to be found for Ms. Curie's research.
I like the story of folks like Marie Curie, because they teach me of the power of devotion to the pursuit of truth. She did not see the path she took as an easy one. She said:
"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained".
Sometimes I want that fortitude to believe that while life is not always going to be easy for me, I must believe that I am fitted for something, and that this elusive goal can be attained. I want to be willing to seek this goal, even if it scalds my blood.