French minister intervenes to halt demolition of Marie Curie’s laboratory

Marie Sklodowka Curie (1867 - 1934) in her laboratory. She shared a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with her husband Pierre for their work in radioactivity. In 1911 she became one of the few people to be awarded a second Nobel Prize, this time in chemisty for her discovery of poloium and radium. Her daugther and son-in-law also shared a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935 for work in radioactive materials. He went on to become the first chairman of the French atomic energy commission. France. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Marie Curie, pictured in her laboratory.Hulton Deutsch/Corbis Historical/Getty ImagesCNN — 

The planned demolition of a Paris laboratory used by pioneering scientist Marie Curie has been suspended after an intervention from France’s minister of culture.

The Pavillon des Sources, in central Paris, was set to be bulldozed as part of a development project by the Institut Curie, which is responsible for managing the site. However, culture minister Rima Abdul Malak said in a post on X on Friday that the demolition had been put on hold following discussions with the institute’s president, Thierry Philip.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (14140010f)
The Pavillon des Sources, part of the former laboratory of French scientist Marie Curie, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1903 and 1911, at the Institut Henri Poincare next to France's first museum dedicated to mathematics in Paris, France, 04 October 2023 (issued 07 October 2023). The Maison Poincare in Paris is a museum dedicated to mathematics and its applications. Designed by the Institut Henri Poincare (IHP), it opened its doors to the public on 30 September. The 900 square-meter space in Paris' Latin Quarter opened with the aim to show that 'mathematics constitutes a living and universal science, in permanent interaction with other sciences and society', the head of the IHP Sylvie Benzoni said. The IHP is a mathematics research institute associated with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and the Sorbonne University.
Maison Poincare, France's first museum dedicated to mathematics, Paris - 04 Oct 2023

The Pavillon des Sources in central ParisChristophe Petit Tesson/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

The laboratory, at 26 rue d’Ulm, was one of three buildings constructed when the Radium Institute, now known as the Institut Curie, was established in 1909.

It was set to be demolished to make way for a large new building, but campaigners protested the decision because of the role the Pavillon des Sources played in Curie’s groundbreaking scientific career.

It was here that the Polish-born French physicist, who lived from 1867 to 1934, carried out some of the work that led to her discovery of polonium and radium.

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Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman ever to win the award in two categories: Physics and Chemistry.

Born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw, Poland, she moved to Paris in 1891 to study at the Sorbonne University, where she met Pierre Curie in 1894.

The pair married the following year and carried out some early research together before Pierre’s death in 1906.

Poland’s ambassador to the UK, Piotr Wilczek, hailed the decision to pause the demolition in a post on X.

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“A triumph for heritage preservation! Marie Curie’s Paris lab, where the Polish-born Nobel laureate pioneered groundbreaking research, gets a reprieve from demolition. Let’s keep the legacy of this extraordinary scientist alive!” he wrote.

However, activist Baptiste Gianeselli, a key figure in the campaign to save the laboratory and have it listed as a historic monument, said the fight is not over.

“We need to stay mobilized until the Radium Institute is listed in its entirety!” he wrote on X.

For its part, the Curie Institute insists that the construction project should go ahead.

In a statement published on Friday, it said the Pavillon des Sources is simply a storage area for radioactive waste.

In a separate statement published the same day, however, the institute confirmed that work on the project would be suspended for a “time of reflection,” during which alternative solutions would be considered.

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