A Geek Love Story – Universal Geek Podcast Episode 249

February 15, 2016

This week on Universal Geek we are doing something different and I’m going to tell you a love story as part of a Valentine’s Day celebration.

Before I begin the story of geek love, I want to share with you this message:
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The inspiration for this week’s program came from an old Radiolab show – Ultimate Mix Tape – where Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich told their listeners the story of Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan. These two marvelous people fell in love while working on the Voyager program. The Voyager interstellar probe was a tangible symbol of their love for each other as it grew over time.

I’m always moved by two aspects of this love story. One, just how genuine it felt with Ann describing their fragile feelings in the first moments of discovery and two, just how geeky it was.


I wanted to find other true life geek love stories. The non-traditional love stories Universal Geek listeners would relate to, understand, and appreciate.


The love story I want to share with you is about a shared passion for science.

Maria Sklodowska

Maria Sklodowska was born in Russia controlled Warsaw Poland in 1867.  Polish citizens were required to be educated by Russian standards. This made Polish nationals upset and they rebelled by creating the Flying University. The Flying University was a unique educational institution created so Polish citizens could be educated in the tradition of Polish standards.

Avoiding Russian mandated education was dangerous. This was a danger Maria Sklodowska was willing to take because Russian universities didn’t allow women to enroll. If Maria was going to pursue her interests in chemistry, physics, and mathematics she would have to risk studying at the Flying University.  

Studying at The Flying University would only take Maria’s education so far.

Due to her family’s ongoing patriotism and involvement in popular uprisings against the Russians, Maria and her sister were left without the assets needed to pay for their ongoing education so they made an arrangement. Maria would work and pay for her sister’s education in Paris and then her sister would work to pay for Maria’s education afterwards.

In 1890, Maria began her practical science training by working at the Museum of Science and Agriculture.  Just a year later, Maria left Poland for Paris where she studied at the University of Paris. By 1894, Maria (now known as Marie) took a job studying the magnetic properties of various types of steel.  

In 1894, Marie needed lab space for her research. A friend, Polish physicist Józef Kowalski-Wierusz, introduced Marie to Pierre – a French scientist who was also studying magnetism.

Pierre Curie

Born in Paris in 1859, Pierre Curie excelled in math and science. By the time he was 16, he had earned a degree in math. Despite having done the equivalent work of earning a Ph.D., Pierre Curie could not pursue an advanced education due to lack of funds. Instead he took a job as a laboratory instructor until he could continue his education.

In 1880, Pierre and his brother demonstrated when crystals were compressed they had an electrical potential.  This is a phenomenon known as piezoelectricity which became the basis of sonar, gas stove ignitors, and a bunch of sensors from devices detecting light to devices detecting sound and motion.

Pierre was appointed supervisor of School of Physics and Industrial Chemistry in 1882 where he began studying magnetism. Fourteen years later, a friend, a Polish physicist Józef Kowalski-Wierusz, introduced Pierre Curie to Marie Sklodowska, the Polish scientist who was studying magnetism in different types of steel and who needed lab space to continue her research.

The Meet Cute

It wasn’t love at first sight for Marie and Pierre.  Pierre worried Marie would be a distraction for his own research.

This worry was put aside as Pierre moved from the role of instructor to partner. He then began to refer to Maria as his muse. She encouraged and inspired his research.

The Courtship

Marie and Pierre shared a passion for science. This shared passion brought them closer together.

Pierre proposed marriage, and like a good scientist who wanted to perform science in her homeland, Marie refused. She went back to Poland and Pierre said he was willing to follow her. She was refused a place at Krakow University because she was a woman.

At the encouragement of Marie, Pierre wrote up his research on magnetism and finally received his own doctorate in March of 1895.

Long bicycle trips and traveling to foreign countries intensified their feelings and their relationship.

The Nuptial

Just four months later, Marie and Pierre were married. Neither scientist wanted a religious service. Marie wore a dark blue outfit which she would use as her laboratory outfit for many years after. Their wedding occurred on July 26, in 1895.

In each other they not only found a friend, a scientific partner but a lover to share their accomplishments with.

The Epilogue

Of course we know the work of Marie and Pierre Curie. Their research into Uranium discovered Polonium and Radium. Together they shared the honor of winning a Nobel Prize in Physics.  They also had two daughters, Irene and Eve.  The Curie family made long lasting contributions to science.
[music interlude] Love is Chemical

Roses are #FF0000
Violets are #0000FF
All My Base
Are Belong to You

Geek love is just like any other love. It is filled with the same complexities, the same doubts, the same joys as everyone else’s. It might be discovered online, while playing World of Warcraft. That vicious Orc and powerful Troll might learn they share more in common than a desire to crush the Alliance. Or maybe two geeks meet at a game store to participate in a Magic the Gathering draft. After trading some cards, one thing leads to another, and they start building custom decks for each other.

Thank you for listening to our tale of geek love on this week’s episode of the Universal Geek Podcast. Happy Valentine’s Day – or Valloween – whichever you choose to celebrate.

I’m Sean D. Francis and I can be found everywhere on the Internet by visiting about.me/seandfrancis.

Remember, my dear geeks, even though love is elusive and can lead to tragedy, it can also be wonderful and uplifting – so don’t panic.

aThe first song was Oh, Love by Ayla Nereo and used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license

The second song was Love is Chemical by Steve Combs and used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license

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