Frédéric Joliot-Curie

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Frédéric Joliot-Curie
Jean Frédéric Joliot

(1900-03-19)19 March 1900
Paris, France
Died14 August 1958(1958-08-14) (aged 58)
Paris, France
Alma mater University of Paris
Known for Atomic nuclei
Spouse(s) Irène Joliot-Curie
Children Hélène Langevin-Joliot (b. 1927)
Pierre Joliot (b. 1932)
Scientific career
Fields Physics , Chemistry

Jean Frédéric Joliot-Curie (French:  [fʁedeʁik ʒɔljo kyʁi] ; 19 March 1900 – 14 August 1958), born Jean Frédéric Joliot, was a French physicist, husband of Irène Joliot-Curie with whom he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for their discovery of artificial radioactivity. [1] [2]

French people are an ethnic group and nation who are identified with the country of France. This connection may be ethnic, legal, historical, or cultural.

Physicist scientist who does research in physics

A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe. Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate causes of phenomena, and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms. Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic and particle physics, through biological physics, to cosmological length scales encompassing the universe as a whole. The field generally includes two types of physicists: experimental physicists who specialize in the observation of physical phenomena and the analysis of experiments, and theoretical physicists who specialize in mathematical modeling of physical systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. Physicists can apply their knowledge towards solving practical problems or to developing new technologies.

Irène Joliot-Curie French scientist

Irène Joliot-Curie was a French scientist, the daughter of Marie Curie and Pierre Curie and the wife of Frédéric Joliot-Curie. Jointly with her husband, Joliot-Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for their discovery of artificial radioactivity. This made the Curies the family with the most Nobel laureates to date. Both children of the Joliot-Curies, Hélène and Pierre, are also esteemed scientists.



Early years

Born in Paris, France, he was a graduate of the École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la Ville de Paris. [3] In 1925 he became an assistant to Marie Curie, at the Radium Institute. He fell in love with her daughter Irène Curie, and soon after their marriage in 1926 they both changed their surnames to Joliot-Curie. [4] At the insistence of Marie, Joliot-Curie obtained a second baccalauréat, a bachelor's degree, and a doctorate in science, doing his thesis on the electrochemistry of radio-elements.

Marie Curie Polish-French physicist and chemist

Marie Skłodowska Curie was a Polish and naturalized-French physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win the Nobel prize twice, and the only person to win the Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields. She was part of the Curie family legacy of five Nobel Prizes. She was also the first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris, and in 1995 became the first woman to be entombed on her own merits in the Panthéon in Paris.

Curie Institute (Paris) scientific research center

Institut Curie is one of the leading medical, biological and biophysical research centres in the world. It is a private non-profit foundation operating a research center on biophysics, cell biology and oncology and a hospital specialized in treatment of cancer. It is located in Paris, France.

Baccalauréat French diploma

The baccalauréat, often known in France colloquially as bac, is an academic qualification that French students are required to take to graduate high school. Introduced by Napoleon I in 1808, it is the main diploma that is required to pursue university studies.


While a lecturer at the Paris Faculty of Science, he collaborated with his wife on research on the structure of the atom, in particular on the projection, or recoil, of nuclei that had been struck by other particles, which was an essential step in the discovery of the neutron by Chadwick in 1932. In 1935 they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of "artificial radioactivity," resulting from the creation of short-lived radioisotopes by nuclear transmutation from the bombardment of stable nuclides such as boron, magnesium, and aluminium with alpha particles.

Atom smallest unit of a chemical element

An atom is the smallest constituent unit of ordinary matter that has the properties of a chemical element. Every solid, liquid, gas, and plasma is composed of neutral or ionized atoms. Atoms are extremely small; typical sizes are around 100 picometers. They are so small that accurately predicting their behavior using classical physics – as if they were billiard balls, for example – is not possible. This is due to quantum effects. Current atomic models now use quantum principles to better explain and predict this behavior.

Neutron nucleon (constituent of the nucleus of the atom) that has neutral electric charge (no charge); symbol n

The neutron is a subatomic particle, symbol
, with no net electric charge and a mass slightly greater than that of a proton. Protons and neutrons constitute the nuclei of atoms. Since protons and neutrons behave similarly within the nucleus, and each has a mass of approximately one atomic mass unit, they are both referred to as nucleons. Their properties and interactions are described by nuclear physics.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry One of the five Nobel Prizes established in 1895 by Alfred Nobel

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry is awarded annually by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to scientists in the various fields of chemistry. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895, awarded for outstanding contributions in chemistry, physics, literature, peace, and physiology or medicine. This award is administered by the Nobel Foundation, and awarded by Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on proposal of the Nobel Committee for Chemistry which consists of five members elected by Academy. The award is presented in Stockholm at an annual ceremony on December 10, the anniversary of Nobel's death.

In 1937 he left the Radium Institute to become a professor at the Collège de France. In January 1939 he wrote a letter to his Soviet colleague Abram Ioffe, alerting him to the fact that German physicists had recently discovered nuclear fission of uranium bombarded by neutrons, releasing large amounts of energy. [5] He went on to work on nuclear chain reactions and the requirements for the successful construction of a nuclear reactor that uses controlled nuclear fission to generate energy. Joliot-Curie was mentioned in Albert Einstein's 1939 letter to President Roosevelt as one of the leading scientists on the course to nuclear chain reactions. The Second World War, however, largely stalled Joliot's research, as did his subsequent post-war administrative duties.

Collège de France Higher education and research establishment

The Collège de France, founded in 1530, is a higher education and research establishment in France. It is located in Paris, in the 5th arrondissement, or Latin Quarter, across the street from the historical campus of La Sorbonne.

Abram Ioffe Soviet physicist

Abram Fedorovich Ioffe was a prominent Russian/Soviet physicist. He received the Stalin Prize (1942), the Lenin Prize (1960) (posthumously), and the Hero of Socialist Labor (1955). Ioffe was an expert in various areas of solid state physics and electromagnetism. He established research laboratories for radioactivity, superconductivity, and nuclear physics, many of which became independent institutes.

Nuclear chain reaction one single nuclear reaction causes more subsequent nuclear reactions

A nuclear chain reaction occurs when one single nuclear reaction causes an average of one or more subsequent nuclear reactions, this leading to the possibility of a self-propagating series of these reactions. The specific nuclear reaction may be the fission of heavy isotopes. The nuclear chain reaction releases several million times more energy per reaction than any chemical reaction.

Stamp Issued by Romania commemorating Frederic Joliot-Curie. Frederic Juliot-Curie1.jpg
Stamp Issued by Romania commemorating Frédéric Joliot-Curie.

At the time of the Nazi invasion in 1940, Joliot-Curie managed to smuggle his working documents and materials to England with Hans von Halban, Moshe Feldenkrais and Lew Kowarski. During the French occupation he took an active part in the French Resistance as a member of the National Front. Collins and LaPierre in their book Is Paris Burning? note that during the Paris uprising in August 1944 he served in the Prefecture of Police, manufacturing Molotov cocktails for his fellow insurgents, the Resistance's principal weapon against German tanks. The Prefecture was the scene of some of the most intense fighting during the uprising. [6]

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party—officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party —in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar ideas and aims.

Battle of France Successful German invasion of France in 1940

The Battle of France, also known as the Fall of France, was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries during the Second World War. France had previously invaded Germany in 1939. In the six weeks from 10 May 1940, German forces defeated Allied forces by mobile operations and conquered France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, bringing land operations on the Western Front to an end until the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944. Italy entered the war on 10 June 1940 and invaded France over the Alps.

Hans von Halban French physicist

Hans Heinrich von Halban was a French physicist, of Austrian-Jewish descent.

A team of scientists and intelligence officers from the allied Alsos Mission later found Curie at the Collège de France. He was sent to England to be interviewed and gave important information about the names and activities of German scientists.

Alsos Mission United States military operation of 1943-1945 to discover enemy scientific developments during World War II

The Alsos Mission was an organized effort by a team of United States military, scientific, and intelligence personnel to discover enemy scientific developments during World War II. Its chief focus was on the German nuclear energy project, but it also investigated both chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them.


In 1944 French physicists, Pierre Auger and Jules Gueron were working on the British nuclear weapons research program at Chalk River in Canada. As France was being liberated by the Normandy invasion, they returned to France to inform Frederic Joliot-Curie of the progress of the American/British nuclear weapon program. Frederic passed on that information to his Soviet friends.

Frederic and Irene Joliot-Curie with Qian Sanqiang in 1948 Qian Sanqiang with the Joliot-Curies.jpg
Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie with Qian Sanqiang in 1948

He served as director of the French National Center for Scientific Research, and appointed by Charles De Gaulle in 1945, he became France's first High Commissioner for Atomic Energy. In 1948 he oversaw the construction of the first French atomic reactor. A devoted communist, he was purged in 1950 and relieved of most of his duties, but retained his professorship at the Collège de France. Joliot-Curie was one of the eleven signatories to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto in 1955. On the death of his wife in 1956, he took over her position as Chair of Nuclear Physics at the Sorbonne.

Honours and awards

Joliot-Curie was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and of the Academy of Medicine and named a Commander of the Legion of Honour.

He was the recipient of the first Stalin Peace Prize, given in 1951 for his work as president of the World Council of Peace.

The crater Joliot on the Moon is named after him. He was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1946. [1]

A street in Sofia, Bulgaria, and the nearby Joliot-Curie Metro Station are named after Frédéric Joliot-Curie. Other streets bearing his name can be found in the Rivière-des-Prairies borough of north Montreal, Canada; in Bucharest, Târgu-Mureș, and Cluj-Napoca, Romania; in Warsaw and Wrocław, Poland; and in Poprad, Slovakia.

Joliot-Curie appeared as himself in Kampen om tungtvannet (La bataille de l'eau lourde in French; 1948), a French–Norwegian semi-documentary film about sabotage of the Vemork heavy water plant in Norway during World War II. His assistants Hans Halban and Lev Kovarski also appear. Joliot-Curie is shown lecturing about nuclear fission and chain reaction at the Collège de France. [7]

Personal life

The Joliot-Curies in the 1940s Frederic and Irene Joliot-Curie.jpg
The Joliot-Curies in the 1940s

Frédéric and Irène hyphenated their surnames to Joliot-Curie after they married on October 4, 1926 in Paris, France, although their daughter has said, "Many people used to name my parents Joliot-Curie, but they signed their scientific papers Irène Curie and Frédéric Joliot." [8]

Joliot-Curie's daughter, Hélène Langevin-Joliot, was born in 1927. She is a nuclear physicist and professor at the University of Paris. Her brother, Pierre Joliot, was born in 1932. He is a biochemist at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Frédéric Joliot-Curie devoted the last years of his life to the creation of a centre for nuclear physics at Orsay, where his children were educated.

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  1. 1 2 3 Blackett, P. M. S. (1960). "Jean Frederic Joliot 1900–1958". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society . Royal Society publishing. 6 (0): 86–105. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1960.0026. ISSN   0080-4606.
  2. Goldsmith, Maurice (1976). Frédéric Joliot-Curie: a biography. London: Lawrence & Wilshart. ISBN   0-85315-342-6.
  3. "Les ingénieurs de la 39e promotion de l'ESPCI".
  4. "Irène Joliot-Curie - Biographical". Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  5. Rhodes, Richard (2012). Dark Sun: The Making Of The Hydrogen Bomb. Simon and Schuster. p. 27.
  6. Lapierre, Dominique; Collins, Larry (1965). Is Paris Burning?. New York: Warner Books. pp. 107, 120. ISBN   978-0-446-39225-9.
  7. Kampen om tungtvannet on IMDb
  8. "Marie & Pierre Curie's granddaughter, Hélène Langevin-Joliot, visits the United States". Retrieved 2007-01-17.