"Science is not only a discipline of reason but, also, one of romance and passion." — Stephen Hawking
It’s Valentine’s Day, and let’s be honest — sometimes, being a STEM lover on Valentine’s Day can seem…well..uncool?
Hollywood and society at large love to depict scientists, mathematicians, and coders as cold, aloof, robotic, and critical. There’s a lot of emphasis on the brain and barely any attention devoted to the heart. But that isn’t how STEM professionals are in real life! They aren’t heartless automatons. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we’ve gathered a few of our favorite STEM love stories: people who loved each other to the point of invention.
There was a time when Pierre Curie thought love was nothing but a distraction from scientific work. Then he met Marie Sklowdoska.
In 1894, Marie was hard at work in Paris investigating the magnetic properties of certain steels. Her hunt for a larger lab space led her to meet Pierre, who (grudgingly) allowed her to use a piezoelectric device that he’d invented to further her work.
The two fell in love over their mutual passion for science; but when Pierre proposed, Marie refused him (gasp!) because she wanted to return home to Poland. Marie did go home, but when she was denied a position at Krakow University because she was a woman, she returned to Paris, and Pierre & Marie became spouses & scientific partners. As a married couple, they collaborated on Marie’s new work investigating radioactive elements. In 1903, they won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery of polonium and radium.
Picture this: an enemies-to-lovers tale about two lab partners who are forced to work together and find more chemistry than they bargained for.
In 1940, Jerome & Isabella met on their first day of physical chemistry at the University of Michigan. Though they were assigned as lab partners, they were immediate academic rivals, competing for the top grade in the class. But, in addition to covalent bonds, they found themselves nursing a romantic bond — they got married and moved to DC, where they started work on X-ray crystallography together at the US Naval Research Laboratory. While Jerome developed equations to determine how atoms were arranged inside complex molecules, Isabella worked on practical experiments to test Jerome’s equations. Together, they created the direct method for determining molecular structures.
Caroline and William Halsted were two medical professionals who worked together at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1890s: Caroline as a nurse, William as a surgeon. One day, William noticed that his wife’s hands were chapped and red when she came back from surgery, as a result of the harsh chemicals used as disinfectants at the time.
And so, William invented rubber gloves – for Caroline. Though he had only his wife’s comfort and safety in mind at the time, rubber gloves also proved to be a powerful weapon against infection in the operating room. As playwright Sarah Ruhl writes, “the difference between inspired medicine and uninspired medicine is love.”