margeurite perey

“One of Marie Curie’s greatest legacies is the peer effect that she created. ‘She welcomed many women into the laboratory here,’ says Marité. 'If someone was made for science, she would encourage them.’ Marie’s daughter Irène was her most obvious protegée, who went on to win her own Nobel prize jointly with her husband - the second woman after her mother in both distinctions - in 1935. Another was Marguerite Perey, who discovered her own new element, francium, in1939. Perey rose, like the restaurant plongeur who becomes chef, from test-tube washer to be first Marie’s personal preparatory assistant and then a fine scientist in her own right. Her discovery, made on the eve of the second World War, met with none of the fuss that so irritated the Curies. Perey had first proposed the name catium and the symbol Cm for the element preceding radium in the periodic table (because of it’s predicted likelihood of forming highly reactive positive ions, or cations), but by the time that the element names next came up for official consideration, in 1947, a flurry of radioactive elements had been discovered as a consequence of the Manhattan Project. One of these new elements had a better claim to the symbol Cm: curium. Perey accepted her second choice of name, francium. In 1962 she became the first women to be elected to the French Academy of Sciences, which had chauvinistically excluded both Marie and Irène. Perhaps she named her element wisely in the end.”

-Our Lady of Radium, Periodic Tales, Hugh Aldersey-Williams