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Marie Curie at Yale

Despite her scientific eminence, a warm welcome and an honorary degree, the Nobel laureate endured a few slights during her 1921 visit to New Haven.

When Marie Curie came to Yale in 1921 to receive an honorary degree, opinions among the faculty were decidedly mixed. Although six women had already received honorary degrees from Yale, she was the first to receive an honorary Sc.D. Her nomination had come not from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, but from physicians at the School of Medicine, who had corresponded with the Nobel laureate about the uses of X-rays and radium. Some chemists and physicists on the faculty thought the award was a mistake.Among them was Bertram B. Boltwood, Ph.D., a Yale professor and a leading radiochemist, who felt that the physicians’ recommendation was a bit hasty. “When he learned Curie wished to visit him, he told the Yale...

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