Marie Curie

Marie Curie

by Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie
     
 

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There is probably no female scientist more famous than Marie Curie (1867-1934). She made one of the most important theoretical breakthroughs of the twentieth century when she postulated that radiation was an atomic rather than a chemical property, an important milestone in understanding the structure of matter. Not only did she coin the term radioactivity, but her

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Overview

There is probably no female scientist more famous than Marie Curie (1867-1934). She made one of the most important theoretical breakthroughs of the twentieth century when she postulated that radiation was an atomic rather than a chemical property, an important milestone in understanding the structure of matter. Not only did she coin the term radioactivity, but her painstaking research culminated in the isolation of two new elements, polonium and radium. For her achievements she won two Nobel Prizes, one in physics (in 1903) and the other in chemistry (in 1911). Notably, Curie has the remarkable distinction of being the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize and the first person to win more than one.

This informative, accessible, and concise biography looks at Marie Curie not just as a dedicated scientist but also as a complex woman with a sometimes-tumultuous personal life. While Curie is often portrayed as a stern, one-dimensional woman so totally committed to her science that she was incapable of complex emotions, historian of science Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie shows that the opposite is the case. Ogilvie describes Curie's life and career, from her early years in Poland, where she was born Maria Sklodowska, through her marriage to and collaboration with Pierre Curie, her appointment as the first female professor at Sorbonne University after his untimely death, and the scientific work that led to her recognition by the Nobel Prize committee.

Ogilvie also candidly discusses the controversy that surrounded Marie when detractors charged that her work was actually performed by her late husband. Finally, she describes Curie's work in founding the radium institutes to study radiation and in establishing mobile x-ray units during World War I. It was Curie's long exposure to radium that led to her death from aplastic anemia in 1934. A year later, Albert Einstein published a tribute to her in memoriam, praising both her intuition and her tenacity under the most trying circumstances.

Ogilvie's appealing narrative brings the brilliant scientist and courageous woman to life in a story that will continue to inspire future scientists.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This concise look at the life of one of the most famous female scientist gives readers insight into her struggle with the demands of family and the social responsibility associated with her groundbreaking work in physics and chemistry. The youngest daughter of educated Polish parents, during an era when Russian control clamped down on the slightest hint of Polish nationalism, Marie learned early that you had to fight, often secretly, for what you believed in. With a childhood marred by the deaths of her mother and sister, these early lessons made this "stubborn" woman determined to get an education at a time when women were not encouraged to attend university—let alone to study science. Ogilvie reveals a deeper story behind Marie's romantic and professional relationship with Pierre Curie, a kindred soul who, like Marie, believed that "salvation lay in science and religion." A shy, private woman, she couldn't understand the publicity over her later relationship with physicist Paul Langevin, years after Pierre died in a traffic accident. Even as her health faded, a terrible side effect of handling radioactive materials for years, she continued to work hard. Ogilvie's biography offers brisk insight in this fascinating woman whose life and work became the model for the modern female scientist. (Dec.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616142162
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Publication date:
10/01/2010
Pages:
172
Sales rank:
1,117,447
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie (OK), now retired, is formerly a professor of the history of science and curator of the history of science collections at the University of Oklahoma. She is the author of Searching the Stars: The Story of Caroline Herschel and Women in Science: Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century; the editor of The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists; and the coeditor (with Joy Dorothy Harvey) of The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science.

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