Google Doodle pays tribute to Romanian physicist Stefania Maracineanu on her 140th birth anniversary

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Google on Saturday celebrated the 140th birth anniversary of Ștefania Mărăcineanu, one of the pioneering women in the discovery and research of radioactivity.

Mărăcineanu graduated with a physical and chemical science degree in 1910, and began her career as a teacher at the Central School for Girls in Bucharest. During this time, she earned a scholarship from the Romanian Ministry of Science and later decided to pursue graduate research at the Radium Institute in Paris.

Notably, at that time, the institute was becoming a centre for the study of radioactivity worldwide under the direction of physicist Marie Curie. Maracineanu began working on her PhD thesis on polonium — the same element which was discovered by Curie.

During her research on the half-life of polonium, Mărăcineanu noticed that the half-life seemed dependent on the type of metal it was placed on. This got her thinking if the alpha rays from the polonium had transferred some atoms of the metal into radioactive isotopes. Her research led to what is most likely the first example of artificial radioactivity.

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To complete her PhD in physics, Mărăcineanu got into the Sorbonne University in Paris. After working for four years at the Astronomical Observatory in Meudon, she returned to Romania and founded her homeland’s first laboratory for the study of radioactivity.

Mărăcineanu dedicated her most of her time researching on artificial rain, which included a trip to Algeria to test her results. She also studied the link between earthquakes and rainfall, becoming the first to report that there is significant increase of radioactivity in the epicenter leading up to an earthquake. Mărăcineanu’s work was recognized by the Academy of Sciences of Romania in 1936 where she was elected to serve as a Director of research, but she never received global recognition for the discovery.

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