Marie Curie: THE symbol of innovation

Marie Curie in her lab

Marie Curie in her lab

Marie Curie has always been considered an innovative woman. How else? She got two Nobel Prizes (in 1903 and 1911) in two different disciplines – she even was the first women to ever get one… that we all know. We either perceive her as a 24/7 lab rat, relentlessly working in miserable conditions to isolate new radioactive elements (polonium first and later radium) or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, as a passionate woman, marrying for love and then facing a scandal because of a highly mediatized affair with a married peer scientist. Recently however, more than a century after her breakthrough discoveries, Marie Curie got labelled THE most inspirational innovator in science*. Could this mean that no woman has contributed any major discovery over the last decades or is this rewarding her uniqueness?

To me, Marie Sklodowska-Curie has always been, above all, the incarnation of a modern woman: genuine, passionate, dedicated both to her career and her life as a woman, brilliant on all counts without ostentation and for these reasons she will probably remain a model for women for many more centuries.

1) a rebel at heart, using the sharing of knowledge as a weapon

At the moment revolutionary winds blow in the Middle-East and we are able to follow these events on our mobile devices by

Rebel spirit

Rebel spirit imprint

the minute, we might have a better sense of what resisting to a ruler that is not accepted by its population might mean. Even before she moved from Poland to France – where she challenged the very structures of scientific establishment by her sole intelligence and determination, Marie Curie politically opposed the Russian ruler by participating, to the risk of her life, in the Polish “flying university” with her only weapon: knowledge. What she knew, she was sharing and she was SHARING TO EMPOWER others because that was the key to her culture’s survival.

2) open Curie 2.0

Creative Commons logo

Creative Commons logo

Contrary to most of the scientists of her time, when she discovered the radium, she did not patent her discovery in the hope for money to flow in – although she was far from rich at the time. No, Marie Curie made all her research available to the scientific community and encouraged others to further work on her findings – and the resulting progress was tremendous! Her attitude is remarkable even by today’s “open” standards! A century after her discovery, she makes and sustains the difference with her attitude and innovative thinking of SHARING FOR INNOVATING!

3) lifelong learning a key to creativity

Radium image

Radium image

When the first World War hits Europe, her projects at the Radium Institute (nowadays Curie

Observing and sharing

Observing and learning

Institute) are suspended for a while. Did this mean that she stopped being creative? Not exactly… She launched the “petites curies” mobile surgical units equipped with X-ray machines meant to support doctors’ efforts on the battle field. She even learnt how to drive in order to take an active part in the war effort herself… Marie Curie’s creativity resulted from action, something we could call CRE-ACTIVITY. It does not matter if a door closes: we have no other choice than to open a new one and the good news is: we already know how to open them, we just have to be ready to take into account what we discover!!!

4) a passionate professional and a woman of passion

Marie was both a dedicated mother of two girls she raised with her non-conformist and rigorous spirit and a woman of passion.

Pierre and Marie Curie

Pierre and Marie Curie (wedding)

She not only married Pierre Curie out of love (he dropped his own research to support Marie’s work) but once her beloved brutally passed away, she followed her heart again. This time however, the scientist of dreams was a married man. A real scandal at the time, a scandal relayed by the press that crushed her with violence – under the leadership of the very university that employed her!!! What her overexposure to radium had not yet achieved in 1911, the trash conveyed by the media managed perfectly. Who can claim to have survived a scandal of that amplitude – but Hilary Clinton?

5) Is Marie Curie a crushed cultural version of Maria Sklodowska-Curie?

Maria Sklodowska moved to France, married a Frenchman and became and is remembered as Marie Curie – anyways Sklodowska is impossible to pronounce some would say. Nowadays, we would talk about a successful integration in her case (she was also the first woman to ever teach in the French Sorbonne University). According to testimonies in various biographies*, she had a Slavic accent when using French, she was not dressing according to the Parisian fashion standards either… What was her recipe for a successful integration then – language and acculturation being considered as the two main steps into being assimilated? It is indeed an extrapolation, but to me, one of the keys to her success is that all throughout her life, she remained herself, naturally. She followed her heart with a determination that lives only there. It has little to do with willingness but with authenticity, not an inch of the current flamboyance we attach to this word nowadays.

I believe that, would she have lived today, she would have embraced the possibilities offered by social media to leverage innovation and support learning and education, she would have embraced, as an accomplished scientist and woman, the promise of richness borne by the diversity of women’s knowledge in an era of globalization.


And this is our main objective at Winnovators: share our knowledge so as to support each other’s projects, support so as to empower women all over the world, bring them to life so that they make a difference.


Right now there are people looking for sharing knowledge on how to develop an affordable model housing, people looking on how to collectively write a cooking book, etc.


Article by Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti



*UNESCO-L’Oréal prize of the most innovative women

Long ago, I read a biography of Marie Curie by Françoise Giroud “une femme honorable” and Eve Curie’s book on her mother. They both impressed me.

We all know the Revolutionary Study by Chopin, often used to symbolize The Polish resistance to its invaders. Recent days have brought new sounds of revolution to our ears. Here are both…

Chopin Revolutionary study by Boris Berezovsky:

The Egyptian revolution hymn:


Together, we’re strong; together we’re WIN-novators

Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti

Recently my serial entrepreneur friend Magdalena Pawlowicz and I were discussing the obstacles we women were confronted with when sharing our business ideas with our communities or when bringing our “innovations” to the market. OK, it’s a big boys’ world out there – especially in the technology field, but how come men succeed so more brilliantly in this business game than we, little women, do? We figured out that when men want to make a difference, they support each other – even if they are not all from Mars, whereas we, so-called ladies, just prefer stabbing each other in the back before anything launches – even if we are all from Venus…!

If we believed women simply were women’s best enemies when it comes to business, we would probably not have started to think of a solution gathering most of them! It was quite obvious that curving this pattern passed by  all women sharing their knowledge and some mentoring the others so as to actively support their ideas and innovations. This mentoring process should know no borders but rather benefit from the differences inherent to our cultures, the differences related to our age and roles in our communities, in brief: all united by innovation and our willingness to support each other, THE recipe to become WIN-novators.

After we spent some time defining the objectives of such network (see in the “about” section of this blog) and its unique mentoring process, we realized we needed a technology partner. Both of us were familiar with TWID,  a Finnish social media software company which solutions are particularly adapted to associations. TWID immediately accepted to support our initiative and help us develop an interface that will enable the cross-border innovation mentoring project we thought through to support you, innovative women. It should be operational by the end of February/beginning of March.

In the meantime, your feedback on the following topics is very welcome:

1) what are your expectations in terms of support for helping you release your potential for innovation? Have a look at our “how does WIN-novators work” under the “about” section of this blog and let us know if this is something useful or what would be more useful (deadline: 21st February). Please note that this is only a proposal so far and it is not binding. PS: The conditions of accessing the WIN-novators network will be known by 28th February 2011 at once with the launch of the network supporting it. We however value your feedback and hope to implement those suggestions that will contribute to the success of this network.

2) tell us about who is embodying the innovative woman, who is a source of inspiration for you as a women in business as we are planning monthly portraits of WIN-novators. The first one will be on your table Friday, 24th February and yes it might come as a surprise but we are sure it will create some debate…

Ruxandra Balboa-Pöysti

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