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Google Doodle celebrates the 140th birth anniversary of Romanian physicist Stefania Maracineanu

Internet giant Google on Saturday celebrated Romanian physicist Stefania Maracineanu’s 140th Birthday with a Doodle. Maracineanu was one of the pioneering women in the discovery and research of radioactivity.

She was born on June 18, 1882, in Bucharest. Maracineanu graduated with a physical and chemical science degree in 1910. She then started her career as a teacher at the Central School for Girls in Bucharest. She earned a scholarship from the Romanian Ministry of Science while teaching at the school.

Maracinean decided to pursue graduate research at the Radium Institute in Paris. Notably, at that time, the institute was becoming a worldwide center for the study of radioactivity under the direction of physicist Marie Curie. Maracineanu began working on her Ph.D. thesis on polonium. It is the same element that was discovered by Curie.

During her research on the half-life of Polonium, the Romanian physicist then found out that the half-life seemed dependent on the type of metal it was placed on. She wondered if the alpha rays from the polonium had transferred some atoms of the metal into radioactive isotopes. Her research led to the first example of artificial radioactivity.

To finish her Ph.D. in physics, Maracineanu enrolled at Sorbonne University in Paris. She finished her Ph.D. in just two years. After working for four years at the Astronomical Observatory in Meudon, she returned to Romania. There she founded her country's first laboratory to study Radioactivity.

The Romanian physicist started researching artificial rain. For this, she also visited Algeria to test her results. Maracineanu also studied the link between earthquakes and rainfall. She was the first to report that there is a significant increase in radioactivity in the epicenter which lead to an earthquake.

In 1935, Irene Currie, daughter of Marie Curie, and her husband received a joint Nobel prize for their discovery of artificial radioactivity. Maracineanu did not contest the Nobel prize but demanded that her role in the discovery should be recognized.

In 1936, the Academy of Sciences of Romania recognized Maracineanu’s work and she was elected to serve as a Director of research. However, she never received global recognition for the discovery. The Curie Museum in Paris contains the original chemical laboratory in the Radium Institute, where Maracineanu worked.

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