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On November 14th 1935, Frédéric Joliot received a telegram from Henning Pleijel, Permanent Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, with the following message: "I have the honor of informing you that the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has awarded the 1935 Noble Prize in Chemistry to you and Mrs. Curie-Joliot."
One month later, the couple travelled to Stockholm to participate in the award ceremonies for the world's most prestigious Prize. On December 11th, during a gala evening at the National Museum, the couple received their prize from the hands of King Gustave V of Sweden. The next day, Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie delivered their official Nobel lecture.
The laureates decided to deliver the lecture together. Irène spoke on Physics and Frédéric on Chemistry, challenging the commonly held opinion that Irène was the duo's chemist and Frédéric the Physicist. In his conclusion, Frédéric Joliot brilliantly anticipated possible future applications for man-made radioactivity: exploring matter and using atoms to treat cancer or diagnose illnesses. The discovery of induced or man-made radioactivity is follows in the footsteps of the work initiated by their predecessors, Pierre and Marie Curie.
Irène and Frédéric Joliot first announced their discovery in January 1934. They conducted their research and made their discovery in Marie Curie's laboratory at the Institut du Radium (raduim institute), now the Musée Curie, rue Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris.
Marie Curie was there to proudly witness her daughter and son-in-law's discovery. Unfortunately, she passed way in July 1934, a few months before they were honored with the Nobel Prize, just as she and her husband Pierre Curie were in 1903, and Marie again, on her own, in 1911.
Saturday December 12th at 3 pm, the Musée Curie is organizing a conference entitled "Il y a 80 ans, Irène et Frédéric Joliot-Curie recevaient le Prix Nobel de chimie" (80 years ago, Irène et Frédéric Joliot-Curie, received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry). Speaker: Renaud Huynh, Director of the museum. Learn more.
PSL-Explore digital collections: Explore 60 years of day-to-day life at the Curie laboratory as told through Marie Curie's laboratory notebooks
Musée Curie website: Rediscover the research leading up to Irène and Frédéric's discovery and the story of their Nobel Prize.
Text: Nathalie Huchette, head of Cultural initiatives and communication, Musée Curie.
Photo credits: © Musée Curie (coll. ACJC)