Curium is named for Marie and Pierre Curie, pioneers in the field of radioactivity (a word they coined). When we think of the Curies we tend to think of Nobel Prizes. It is easy to forget the hard grind of the bench chemistry that went into their achievements, and in particular the discovery of the radioactive elements polonium and radium. To get an idea of the work involved, it is worth considering that it took one tonne of pitchblende to isolate one tenth of a gram of radium chloride. My favourite photos of the Curies are not those posed against a photographer’s backdrop but those that show them in the lab surrounded by glassware and so I have chosen a simple round-bottomed flask to represent curium.
To accompany this post, here is our family entry for a recent “dress as your favourite element” competition.