The Curies: A Biography of the Most Controversial Family in Science / Edition 1

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Focusing on the lives and relationships behind their magnificent careers, The Curies is the first biography to trace the entire Curie dynasty, from Pierre and Marie’s fruitful union and achievements to the lives and accomplishments of their two daughters, Irène and Eve, and son-in-law Frederic Joliot-Curie. Biographer Denis Brian digs deep beneath the headlines and legends to reveal the Curies’ multigenerational saga in its entirety, featuring new, never-before-published personal information as well as newly revealed correspondence and diary excerpts. Brimming with endearing and often amusing anecdotes about this much-misunderstood clan, The Curies reveals a family as closely intertwined in their private lives as they were in their professional endeavors.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Brian, author of works on Einstein and Pulitzer, fills a significant gap in the Curie bookshelf with this engaging book that follows five generations of the Sklodowska-Curie-Joliot family. Beginning before Marie Sklodowska and Pierre Curie meet, Brian details their courtship and 11-year marriage, bringing the reader to the Curie dinner table and into the converted garden shed (replete with a leaking roof) where the Curies' work on polonium and radium transformed physics and won them two Nobel prizes. After Pierre's early death, Marie soldiered on for their children, Irene and Eve, and for their work, organizing X-ray equipment distribution during World War I and training numerous women to work at the Radium Institute. Irene, a nurse and wartime ambulance driver, began work in the laboratory with her mother after the war, later joining fellow assistant Frederic Joliot in a marital and career partnership similar to that of her parents'. Their joint Nobel came in 1935, a year after Marie's death. Eve, a journalist, wrote a best-selling biography of her mother and, during WWII, became a battlefield reporter. The fifth generation of this extraordinary family, Helene and Pierre Joliot-Curie, became eminent scientists, and the scientific tradition continues into the sixth generation. Brian's book illuminates 100 years of scientific history in its political and social contexts through the lives of this remarkable family. Extremely well-done and highly recommended. 
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
  From Booklist
*Starred Review* Marie Curie is the only Nobel Prize winner who was ever discouraged by the awards committee from attending the ceremony. Both the revolutionary science and the public scandal that filled the life of Marie Curie receive illuminating scrutiny from Brian, a seasoned biographer of Nobel laureates. And in Marie Curie, Brian recognizes not an isolated genius but rather the stellar center of a fascinating constellation. By her side for years of dangerous research stood Pierre Curie, who shared with his wife a Nobel Prize for exploring the physics of radioactivity but who then perished beneath the wheels of a carriage, leaving his bereaved spouse to carry on without him. In his account of Marie's later life, Brian details the rare perseverance that put radium and polonium in the chemistry books. But he also highlights the personal heedlessness that exposed her to public censure for a romantic entanglement with a married colleague who ended up fighting a duel for her sake. ?And in the lives of Marie's two daughters, Brian again limns the distinctive Curie conjunction of genius and recklessness. One daughter recapitulated her mother's career by winning a Nobel Prize with her husband, but that husband renewed the family's dubious legacy of controversy through his aggressively Communist politics. The second daughter, Eve, won plaudits for her brilliant biography of her mother, Madame Curie (1937). This composite life study belongs on the same shelf as that acclaimed work. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Library Journal
Although there have been numerous biographies of Pierre and Marie Curie, Brian (Einstein: A Life) breaks with tradition by following two generations of the family to 2004, which finds Eve Curie, the younger daughter of Marie and Pierre, still living. His work also differs from earlier ones in that it references those previous studies-e.g., Eve's own biography of her mother, Rosalynd Pflaum's Grand Obsession, and Barbara Goldsmith's Obsessive Genius-both at points of agreement and disagreement. Taking a chronological viewpoint, Brian traces the family's personal and political lives with clear and comprehensive coverage of the various members' scientific research. A large portion of the book's last third focuses on daughter Irene and her husband Frederick Joliot, who joined the Communist Party during World War II, and Eve, who traveled around the world as a war correspondent. Brian pays considerable attention to the many problems that Marie and Irene encountered as females in the male world of physics research. Like her mother, Irene won a Nobel Prize in chemistry and died of leukemia, attributed to her work with radioactive materials. For most biography and science history collections.-Hilary Burton, formerly with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471273912
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

DENIS BRIAN is the author of Einstein: A Life and Pulitzer: A Life, both published by Wiley. His other books include The True Gen: An Intimate Portrait of Hemingway by Those Who Knew Him and Genius Talk: Conversations with Nobel Scientists and Other Luminaries.
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Table of Contents


1. Pierre Curie.

2. Marie Salomea Sklodowska.

3. Pierre and Marie in Love.

4. Mutual Adoration.

5. Spirits, Radioactivity, and the Price of Fame.

6. Psychic Researchers.

7. Pierre Curie’s Last Day.

8. Rescuing Langevin from His Wife.

9. Battered by the Press.

10. Surgery and Suffragettes.

11. “Little Curies” and World War I.

12. A Gift of Radium from the United States.

13. Radium: Miracle Cure or Menace?

14. A Great Discovery—at Last.

15. Marie Curie’s Last Year.

16. Nobel Prizes, Spanish Civil War, and Fission.

17. France Defeated.

18. Joliot Keeps the Gestapo Guessing—Eve Curie Tours the Battlefronts.

19. Joliot Becomes a Communist—Eve Curie Interviews Nehru, Gandhi, and Jinnah.

20. The Battle for Paris.

21. Joliot’s Fight for Peace and Communism.

22. Joliot Launches Peace Offensive and Charges the United States with Using Germ Warfare in Korea.

23. The Curie Legacy.


Selected Bibliography.


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