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From the PublisherFrom 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.
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*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
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