The daily Google Doodle is a thing of beauty. For Saturday, 18 June, the Doodle featured renowned Romanian physicist Ștefania Mărăcineanu. Saturday also marked Mărăcineanu's 140th birth anniversary.
But who was Ștefania Mărăcineanu. Born in 1882 in Bucharest, Mărăcineanu îs renowned for her work and research on radioactivity. She graduated from the University of Bucharest with a degree in physical and chemical sciences in 1910 and wrote her thesis about light interference and its application to wavelength measurement.
In the years after her graduation, Mărăcineanu taught in several high schools in Romanian cities. After the First World War, she went to Paris to study further. Considered a pioneer of radioactivity, she studied radioactivity with renowned Polish physicist Marie Curie – who was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize – in 1919 at the University of Paris (Sorbonne). After receiving her PhD from the Radium Institute, Mărăcineanu worked with Curie till 1926. She died in 1944.
The Doodle, which went viral on the internet, features a side view of Mărăcineanu, with Polonium (showed through its periodic table symbol ‘Po’) glowing over her palm in a laboratory. Polonium is a rare and highly radioactive metal with no stable isotopes.
Mărăcineanu is often considered one of the most pioneering scientists to have worked in the field of radioactivity discover, but also a forgotten figure in the world of STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
According to an entry on the Digital Mechanism and Gear Library website (www.dmg-lib.org), Mărăcineanu is considered Romania's first prominent physicist. According to the article, this was Curie wrote about her: "Miss Mărăcineanu worked many years in my lab and recently obtained her Ph.D. in physical sciences. I particularly appreciate her scientific work”.
The article further adds: “She undertook interesting experiences of obtaining artificial rain in the country and abroad, using radioactive salts, getting some results… She published valuable works concerning the link between earthquakes and rainfall and was the first to report that on the eve of an earthquakes there is a significant increase in radioactivity in the epicenter, due to releases of radioactive radon – a gas produced by decay of radium – (as a result of micro earthquakes), hypothesis with great practical significance, confirmed only after teens of years.”
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