Freethought of the Day

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There are 3 entries for this date: Marie Curie , Albert Camus and Andrew Dickson White
Marie Curie

Marie Curie

On this date in 1867, two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie S. Curie, née Sklodowska, was born in Warsaw, Poland. She abandoned her family's Roman Catholicism to become an agnostic as a teenager. Marie moved to Paris to study at the Sorbonne in 1891, got her degree in math and married Pierre Curie in a civil ceremony. The couple had two daughters. Marie broke many barriers for her sex, becoming the first European woman to earn a science doctorate, as well as the first to be awarded a Nobel Prize, when she and Pierre were jointly awarded the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics for discovering polonium (named for her home country) and radium. Marie coined the very word "radioactive," and pursued its therapeutic properties. In 1906, Pierre was tragically run over and killed. Marie took over his professorship of general physics, winning another first for women. When she won the 1911 Nobel Prize for chemistry, she was the first person male or female to have received two Nobels. Yet that same year she was barred as a woman from the Academy of Sciences. She became director of the Curie Laboratory in the Radium Institute of the University of Paris in 1914. She spent much of the remainder of her life pursuing her humanitarian goal of "easing human suffering." Their oldest daughter, Irene, with her husband Frederic Joliot-Curie, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1935 for work in artificial radioactivity. Marie died at 67 of leukemia. She became the first woman to be interred at the Pantheon on her own merits. Eve, in her memoir of her mother, Mme. Curie (1937), described all family members as rationalists. D. 1934.

“Pierre belonged to no religion and I did not practice any.”

—Marie Curie, What Do I Read Next (1924), a memoir of Pierre Curie.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Albert Camus

Albert Camus

On this date in 1913, Nobel Prize-winning writer Albert Camus was born in Mondovi, Algeria, to immigrant parents: a French father and a Spanish mother. After his father died during World War I in 1914, Albert's family was left in extreme poverty. Albert excelled in athletics and academics, and entered the University of Algiers studying philosophy, although a serious bout of tuberculosis cut short his studies. He joined the anti-Fascist communist party in 1934, but was soon after expelled from the Algerian Communist Party as a "Trotskyist." Camus wrote for a socialist paper in the late 1930s chronicling the plight of the poor. In 1940, Camus went to Paris, fled after the German invasion, returned to Algeria, was advised to leave, and at age 25, found himself back in Paris. Camus joined the Resistance, and after liberation was a columnist for the newspaper Combat. Major writings include the essay, "The Myth of Sisyphus," 1942, L'Etranger (The Stranger), 1942, La Peste (The Plague), 1947, which includes a priest character who insists a plague was sent as punishment from God, La Chute (The Fall), 1956, and L'Exile et le Royaume (Exile and the Kingdom), 1957, the year he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Camus was a pioneer of absurdist literature, a nonbeliever and a humanist. D. 1960.

“[Camus'] anti-Christianity is one of the most absolute of modern times.”

—Seymour-Smith, Who's Who in Twentieth-Century Literature (1976), cited by Warren Allen Smith in Who's Who in Hell

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Andrew Dickson White

Andrew Dickson White

On this date in 1832, Andrew Dickson White was born in Homer, N.Y. He graduated from Yale University in 1853 with a B.A., and returned for his M.A. in history in 1856. He became a history professor at the University of Michigan beginning in 1856, and was elected a New York State Senator in 1864. White co-founded Cornell University with Ezra Cornell, and became its first president (1866–1885). White was also the first president of the American Historical Association (1884–1886), president of the American delegation to The Hague Peace Conference in 1899, and U.S. Ambassador to Germany (1897–1902). He married Mary Outwater in 1859, who died in 1887. White was married to Helen Magill in 1890 and had four children.

Upon founding Cornell, White announced that he wanted the college to be “an asylum for Science—where truth shall be sought for truth’s sake, not stretched or cut exactly to fit Revealed Religion” (quoted in God and Nature by David Lindberg and Ronald Numbers, 1986). He strongly supported science and secularism, lecturing about “The Battle-Fields of Science,” which he describes in his autobiography as a lecture about “how, in the supposed interest of religion, earnest and excellent men, for many ages and in many countries, had bitterly opposed various advances in science and in education” (Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White Vol. 1, 1904). In 1896, White wrote History of the Warfare of Science and Theology in Christendom, which further examines the tumultuous relationship between science and religion. He wrote: “In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and science.” D. 1918

“I simply try to aid in letting the light of historical truth into that decaying mass of outworn thought which attaches the modern world to mediaeval conceptions of Christianity.”

—Andrew Dickson White, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 1896.

Compiled by Sabrina Gaylor

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Freethought of the Day

Would you like to start your day on a freethought note? "Freethought of the Day" is a daily freethought calendar brought to you courtesy of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, highlighting birthdates, quotes, and other historic tidbits.

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