Who Was Ștefania Mărăcineanu? Google Celebrates Physicist’s 140th Birth Anniversary

Stefania Maracineanu
Stefania Maracineanu, well known for her work in the discovery and research of radioactivity was born on June 18, 1882. Her 140th birth anniversary was celebrated by Google in the form of a doodle on Saturday.

Mărăcineanu was one of the pioneering women in physics during her time. She got a degree in physical and chemical science in 1910 and started her teaching career at the Central School for Girls in Bucharest. The Roman Ministry of Science gave her scholarship after which she did a graduate research at the Radium Institute in Paris. At that time, physicist Marie Curie was the director of the Radium Institute and it was becoming the global centre of radioactivity studies.

Some discovery of artificial radioactivity is much disputed. In 1935, daughter of Marie Curie, Irene Joliot-Curie and Frederic won the Nobel Prize for it but all the data reportedly showed that it was Mărăcineanu who discovered it first. Mărăcineanu publicly expressed her dismay over the Nobel Prize and the fact that the winners had used large parts of her work observations on artificial radioactivity without giving her credit for it. Her PhD dissertation gave evidence that she discovered artificial radioactivity during her years of research more than 10 years earlier. 

Curie had discovered polonium which became the subject of Mărăcineanu‘s PhD thesis. During the research, Mărăcineanu observed the half-life of the element and figured that it depends on the metal it is placed in on. It was Mărăcineanu who introduced artificial radioactivity through her research. The physicist went on to complete her PhD in physics and then she got in the Sorbonne University in Paris. She went back to Romania and established her country’s first radioactivity laboratory. Romania owe a lot to the physicist for keeping it on track with the growing research in radioactivity.

It was Mărăcineanu who came up with the report that during rainfall there is a increase of radioactivity in the epicenter which leads to earthquake. her work was recognised by the Academy of Sciences of Romania in 1936 and she was elected to serve as the Director of research but the renowned physicist failed to get the global recognistion she deserved for her contribution to radioactivity study and the discovery.

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As per popular knowledge, the physicist faced mandatory retirement in 1942 and just two years later she died of cancer. It was because of the radiation exposure she had faced during her lifetime for her research. Many reports state that she was buried in Bella Cemetery in Bucharest but there are others who calls this false information.