Marie Salomea Sklodowska, better known by her married name Marie Curie, was born in Warsaw on the 7th of November 1867. She was the fifth and youngest child in her family, and lived in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. At the time, her father taught mathematics and physics, and ran two secondary schools for boys in Warsaw. After the Russian authorities eliminated all laboratory lessons from the education system in Polish schools, however, he took most of the equipment home and taught his own children how to use it. This undoubtedly influenced Marie’s future career as a scientist.
Her father was later fired due to his pro-Polish stance, and for a while was forced to accept various low-paid jobs. Marie’s mother ran a prestigious boarding school for girls in Warsaw, but resigned straight after Marie was born. She died of tuberculosis in May 1878 when Marie was 11, only three years after the death of Marie’s older sister, Zofia. When she was ten years old, Marie went to the J. Sikorska boarding school, and later a gymnasium for girls, from which she graduated with honours in 1883. Following a collapse, possibly due to depression, she spent the next year in the countryside with some of her father’s relatives, and in 1885 returned to live with her father in Warsaw.
Being female, Marie was not allowed to enrol in a normal high school, so she and her sister Bronislawa became involved in the clandestine Warsaw Flying University project, a Polish patriotic institution of higher education that also admitted female students. Marie later took up a position as a governess, first in Warsaw and then for the Zorawski family in Szczuki, who were related to her father. While working for the Zorawski’s, she fell in love with their son Kazimierz, but they did not get married because his family was opposed to the union.
At the beginning of 1890, her sister Bronislawa invited Marie to join her in Paris. Marie was unable to move until a year and a half later, when she had finally saved enough money to afford the university fees. In the meantime, however, she continued her education by studying independently, and began her practical scientific training in a chemical laboratory at the Museum of Industry and Agriculture in Warsaw.