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Marguerite Perey
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Scientist
    (October 19, 1909-May 13, 1975)
    Born in Villemomble, France
    Assistant to Marie Curie (1929-34)
    Discovered the element francium (1939)
    Even though she had already discovered an element, when she received a grant to attend the Sorbonne to earn a doctorate, the University demanded that she first take the courses required for a B.S. degree. (She had previously earned a diploma from the Paris Technical School of Women's Education, which qualified her to work in a laboratory, but was not considered an academic degree.)
    She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry five times without winning.
    Due to its rarity (it is estimated that only about an ounce of it exists in the earth's crust) and instability (its longest lived isotope has a half-life of 22 minutes), francium has no practical applications.
    Appropriately, she was born in the Parisian suburb where the Curie Institute was founded.
    Francium was the last naturally-occurring element to be discovered.
    She was named an officer of the Legion of Honor (1960).
    She was the first woman elected to the French Academy of Science (1962).

Credit: C. Fishel


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