Science and romance may seem like odd bedfellows, Celebrate these 4 famous science couples this Valentine’s Day ,but some of the most groundbreaking scientific advances have been made by couples working together. Like the rest of us, the scientists involved in these love affairs had their share of drama and tragedy—and their romances didn’t always end happily. Nevertheless, today we honor their stories and discoveries. Happy Valentine’s Day to them and all science lovers!
1. Marie-Anne and Antoine Lavoisier
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If Antoine Lavoisier is considered the father of modern chemistry, his wife Marie-Anne can rightly be called its mother. In the 18th century, Antoine (1743-1794) was one of the most respected scientists (or “natural philosophers” as they were then known) of his time. his work, Basic Treatise on Chemistrywas to his field what To Isaac Newton Principles was to physics.
Among many others, Lavoisier was the first scientist to recognize oxygen for what it was, especially with regard to its role in combustion and human respiration, contrary to the popular phlogiston theory of age. He also made one of the earliest attempts to classify the elements.
In his efforts the French nobleman was greatly assisted by Lady Lavoisier (1758-1836). Their marriage was arranged when Antoine was 28 and Marie-Anne just 13. As dubious as such a pairing may be today, it was common for the era and proved to be a well-made match. Marie-Anne’s knowledge of English allows her to translate important works for Antoine, and she turns out diligent laboratory supervisor. Her notes appear frequently in Antoine’s work, and history records her as helping her husband in many ways.
Alas, Lady Lavoisier could not save her husband from the guillotine. Unfortunately, the aristocrat Antoine derives most of his income from tax collection, a truly unfortunate occupation during The French Revolution. Lavoisier and several other tax farmers, as they were known, were sentenced to death in 1794.
Read more: World before scientists
Although the French government confiscated Antoine’s works and equipment, Marie-Anne was the one hard for publishing her husband’s papers in final memoirs, setting forth the principles of what was then known as the “new” chemistry. In doing so, it secured his legacy and, quite possibly, the future of chemistry as we know it now.
Antoine and Marie-Anne had no children. Marie-Anne eventually remarried, but insisted on keeping the Lavoisier name as a gesture of devotion to her first husband. She died in 1836.
2. Marie and Pierre Curie
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When people think of scientific power couples, the Curies usually top the list. Marie Sklodowska (1867-1934) was a Polish student studying in Paris when, in 1894, she met the French physicist Pierre Curie, who soon proposed to her. They married a year later in a no-frills affair – biographers like to note that Marie married in a simple blue dress which she would also wear for laboratory work.
Partners in life and science, the pair’s fruitful collaboration led to the discovery of the elements polonium and radium in 1898, as well as radioactivity itself. They also gave birth to a daughter, Irene, a year earlier. (A second daughter, Eva, would be born in 1904.)
But their scientific endeavors brought them fame when the couple, along with Henri Becquerelwon Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903. Because she was a woman, Marie was initially excluded from the award. To his eternal credit, Pierre complained and, with the help of sympathetic members of the Nobel Committee, ensured that Marie was justly recognized. She became the first woman – and the Curies – the first married couple to win a Nobel Prize.
Read more: 5 things you didn’t know about Marie Curie
Tragically, after just over a decade of married life, Pierre was struck and killed in a Paris street accident in 1906. Although devastated at the time, in 1911 Marie was involved in an affair with a physicist Paul Langevinwhich became a scandal in the press.
However, Marie’s scientific work was what history would remember when—also in 1911—she received a prize second Nobel, this time in chemistry, for her continued work in the isolation of radium. This would not be the last time the Curie name would appear on the very short list of husband and wife Nobel laureates.
3. Irene Curie-Joliot and Jean-Frédéric Joliot
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The daughter of Marie and Pierre Irene (1897-1956) followed in his parents’ footsteps, showing an aptitude for mathematics and physics from an early age. It couldn’t have been easy having your mother a two-time Nobel laureate. By all accounts, Mother Curie was strict in her daughter’s educational upbringing. She had Irene tutored privately by other famous academics of the day and insisted that she do daily maths and other tutoring even while on summer vacation.
During the First World War, Irene, then a young woman, interrupted her studies at the Sorbonne and accompanied her mother to the battlefield, where doctors were being trained to use early mobile x-ray equipment in the area. After the war, Irene continued as her mother’s laboratory assistant and eventually received her doctorate in 1925. That same year, Marie took on another assistantship, Jean Frederic Joliot (1900-1958) who falls in love with the boss’s daughter. Irene and Frederick married in 1926.
Some critics felt that it was a marriage of convenience, and that perhaps Joliot was more interested in advancing his position than courting a bride who happened to have a famous name. Even Marie apparently doubted the pairing, going so far as to insist that Frederick agree to a kind of prenuptial agreement agreement this would ensure that Irene controls the valuable assets of Marie’s lab after her death (then only eight years in the future). For some time after the wedding, Marie regularly introduced her son-in-law as “the man who married Irene.” Oh
But the marriage seems to have been genuine and full of love. Irene and Frederik, in a progressive move for the times, jointly changed their surname to Joliot-Curie, and had two children (who also became scientists). Also, like Pierre and Marie before them, the pair’s scientific collaboration – in this case with the creation of artificial radioactive elements—will win them a joint Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.
Although they were physically separated for a time during World War II (during which Frédéric was a member of the French Resistance), the couple eventually reunited and their marriage lasted until 1956, when Irene died of leukemia. Frederick died just two years later.
4. Gertie and Carl Corey
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Compared to the Curies, the general public may not recognize the name Cory, but it sits in the annals of biochemistry, and rightfully so.
At first blush, Carl Corey and Gertie Radnitz they wouldn’t seem like the ideal couple considering the era in which they lived. While both were born in 1896 in Prague and both families originally came from Austria, Karl’s folks are Catholic while Gerty’s are Jewish.
In 1914, at a time when such differences mattered (and sometimes still do), they met as medical students at the Karl Ferdinand University in Prague and quickly discovered that they shared mutual passions for both medicine and nature. Carl is on record for noting his immediate attraction to Gertie and recounting that he and his mistress often “plan and study together, or go on country trips or ski expeditions.”
The outbreak of World War I interrupts their romance as well as their studies. But after the war, when they weren’t skiing, they formed a remarkable collaboration. After graduation, they married and published their first joint research that same year, 1920. After a few years, they moved to United Stateswhere, despite some opposition to the idea of a husband and wife research team, they continued their work together in life and in the laboratory.
Their ongoing work focuses on human metabolism, specifically about how our bodies metabolize glucose. This research led to the discovery of the so-called Cory cycle, a critical part of metabolism in which lactic acid (formed in muscle) is converted to glycogen in the liver, then broken down to glucose for use by muscle cells. In short, because our muscles require constant energy, we couldn’t function without it Corey cycle. The discovery of this mechanism was important enough to win Corris a Nobel Prize medicine in 1947
Unfortunately, sometime around this time, Gertie was diagnosed with what would prove to be a fatal bone marrow disease. However, Carl and Gertie continued to work together for years until Gertie died in 1957. Carl died in 1984. at 87 years oldstill active in the field of research he and Gertie pioneered.