Marie Curie, born Marie Skłodowska, didn’t look like most scientists at the turn of the 20th century. In order to break into a field dominated by men, the French-Polish physicist attended a secret school in Poland and then studied in Paris, despite being unable to even afford food. Her persistence eventually paid off: Her radiation research earned her two Nobel prizes—one in physics and one in chemistry. While she opened doors for many brilliant woman scientists to follow her, she remains the only person, male or female, to win Nobel prizes in two separate sciences.

To learn more about the woman behind the groundbreaking discoveries, watch the animated video below from TED-Ed.