Perhaps my favorite test question I’ve ever written is the following:
Name two achievements of Marie Curie. (Nota bene: “marrying Pierre Curie” is not an acceptable answer.)
Marie Curie is one of my intellectual heroes. She was brilliant, she was creative, and she was collaborative–and she won two Nobel prizes to boot. It’s been one of my stealth agendas as an educator to bring her into the curriculum whenever I can: at least two days of my History at Art, Music, and Science (HAMS) class at STES were devoted to the Curies and their innovations, and I convinced our English faculty here at CSH to put a graphic novel about her life and work on the school’s summer reading list.
I admire Marie Curie not necessarily because she’s the “token lady scientist” (see below) and that I can’t otherwise relate to male scientists. (Don’t get me started on my affection for Nikola Tesla.) I admire her because she worked incredibly hard and pursued her intellectual passions to the n-th degree. She was wholeheartedly committed to her work and was a person of integrity and generosity for her whole life. That’s the kind of person I aspire to be in my work, and I hope it’s what my students aspire to as well.
I leave you with one my favorite web comics of all time, from the inimitable XKCD. Happy birthday, Madame Curie!