Born in Paris on 15 May 1859, Pierre Curie was the son of Eugene Curie (28 August 1827 – 25 February 1910), a doctor of Alsatian Protestant origin, and Sophie-Claire Depouilly Curie (15 January 1832 – 27 September 1897). He was educated by his father and in his early teens showed a strong aptitude for mathematics and geometry. When he was 16, he earned his math degree. When Pierre Curie was preparing his bachelor of science degree, he worked in the laboratory of Jean-Gustave Bourbouze in the Faculty of Science.
By the age of 18 he had completed the equivalent of a higher degree, but did not proceed immediately to a doctorate due to lack of money. Instead he worked as a laboratory instructor.
In 1880, Pierre and his older brother Jacques (1856–1941) demonstrated that an electric potential was generated when crystals were compressed, i.e. piezoelectricity. To provide accurate measurements needed for their work, Pierre Curie created a highly sensitive instrument called the Curie scale. He used weights, microscopic meter readers, and pneumatic dampeners to create the scale. Also, to aid their work, they invented the piezoelectric quartz electrometer. Shortly afterwards, in 1881, they demonstrated the reverse effect: that crystals could be made to deform when subject to an electric field. Almost all digital electronic circuits now rely on this in the form of crystal oscillators.
Pierre Curie was introduced to Maria Skłodowska by their friend, physicist Józef Wierusz-Kowalski. Curie took her into his laboratory as his student. His admiration for her grew when he realized that she would not inhibit his research. He began to regard Sklodowska as his muse. She refused his initial proposal, but finally agreed to marry him on 26 July 1895.
It would be a beautiful thing, a thing I dare not hope, if we could spend our life near each other, hypnotized by our dreams: your patriotic dream, our humanitarian dream, and our scientific dream. [Pierre Curie to Maria Skłodowska]:117