Childhood & Early Life
Jean Frederic Joliot was born on March 19, 1900, to Henri Joliot and Emilie Roederer in Paris, France. His father was a merchant by profession.
Early on, Joliot was more inclined towards sports than academics. He studied at the Lycee Lakanal boarding school but later on due to financial constraints he opted out of the boarding school and enrolled at the Lavoisier municipal school.
After passing from school, he entered École de Physique et de Chimie Industrielle and graduated with a first rank degree in engineering
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After his stint in military, Frederic Joliot Curie accepted a research scholarship that helped him secure the position of an assistant to Marie Curie at the Radium Institute in 1925. During this time, he fell in love and eventually married Marie Curie’s daughter, Irene Curie. The two adopted the surname Joliot-Curie.
At the insistence of Marie Curie, Joliot-Curie secured his second baccalaureate. In 1927, he obtained his license es sciences. He studied further and in 1930, obtained a doctorate degree in science. The topic of his thesis was electrochemistry of radio elements. Meanwhile, he also taught at the École d’Électricité Industrielle Charliat.
During this time, the husband-wife duo carried out extensive research on the structure of the atom. Their work on the projection of the nuclei was instrumental in the discovery of neutron by Chadwick and of positron by Anderson; both in the in year 1932
In 1934, Joliot-Curie and Irene Joliot-Curie struck the magnum opus of their career with the discovery of artificial radioactivity. The discovery was a milestone in science. For the same, they bombarded boron, aluminium, and magnesium with alpha particles. On bombardment, they obtained radioactive isotopes of elements not ordinarily radioactive, namely, 13 of nitrogen, 30 of phosphorus, 27 of silicon and 28 of aluminium. Since these elements were not found naturally, they decomposed easily emitting positive and negative electrons.
It was after the discovery of the artificially produced isotopes that the possibility of using them to follow chemical changes and physiological processes were realized. The isotopes thus discovered were used variedly - the absorption of radioiodine by the thyroid gland was detected, and the course of radiophosphorus was traced in the metabolism of the organism.
In 1935, for their discovery of artificial radioactivity, Frederic and Irene Joliot-Curie were awarded Nobel Prize for chemistry. It was due to their discovery that the existence of short-lived radioisotopes was discovered.
Meanwhile, amidst his scientific research and study, Joliot who possessed an interest in social questions, joined the Socialist Party, the S.F.I.O., in 1934 and later the League for the Rights of Man in 1936.
In 1937, Joliot-Curie gave up his position at the Radium Institute to take up professorship at the College de France. During this time, he worked on chain reactions. He built the first cyclotron in Western Europe
He successfully constructed a nuclear reactor that used nuclear fission to generate energy using uranium and heavy water. Following this, he discovered physical roof of the phenomenon. Between 1939 and 1940, he took out five patents.
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In 1940, during World War II, Joliot-Curie’s research work dampened. At the time of Nazi invasion, Joliot smuggled his research material to England with the help of Hans von Halban, Moshe Feldenkrais and Lew Kowarski.
At the time of French occupation, he actively took part in the French Resistance. He served as the President of the National Front and later formed the French Communist Party.
Post War, in 1945, Joliot-Curie served as the Director of the Centre National de la Recherche Scietifuque (French National Centre for Scientific Research) and later as the French first High Commissioner for Atomic Energy. Two years later, he oversaw the construction of the first French atomic reactor. In 1950, he was relieved off his political duties. He retained professorship at College de France.
In 1955, he was one of the eleven signatories to the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. Following the death of his wife Irene Joliot-Curie in 1956, he took over her position as Chair of Nuclear Physics at the Sorbonne.
Towards the end of his career, Frederic Joliot-Curie administered the creation of a centre for nuclear physics at Orsay.
Awards & Achievements
In 1935, along with his wife, he was awarded Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their discovery of artificial radioactivity.
He served as the member of the French Academy of Science and Academy of Medicine. He was also named Commander of the Legion of Honour. In 1946, he was elected as a Foreign member of the Royal Society.
In 1951, Joliot-Curie was awarded a Stalin Peace Prize for his work as the President of World Council of Peace.
Personal Life & Legacy
Frederick Joliot’s position of an assistant to Marie Curie in 1925 transformed both his private and professional life. He first met Curie’s daughter Irene Curie. The two hit it off instantly and following year, On October 4, 1926 tied the nuptials. Post marriage, they hyphenated their surname to Joliot-Curie.
In 1927, the couple was blessed with a daughter, Helena Langevin-Joliot who became a noted physicist and a son Pierre in 1932, who became a biologist.
He died on August 14, 1958, at the age of 58, in Paris, France
Posthumously, Joliot has a crater on the moon named after him. Furthermore, a street and a metro station in Sofia, Bulgaria are named after him. Other streets in countries that bear his name include Canada, Warsaw, Wroclaw, Poland, Poprad, Bucharest, North Montreal, Romania, Slovakia and so on.
The government of Romania issued a stamp commemorating the achievements by Frederic Joliot-Curie.