Marie Curie: A Life

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One hundred years ago, Marie Curie discovered radioactivity, for which she won the Nobel Prize in physics. In 1911 she won an unprecedented second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, for isolating new radioactive elements. Despite these achievements, or perhaps because of her fame, she has remained a saintly, unapproachable genius. From family documents and a private journal only recently made available, Susan Quinn at last tells the full human story. From the stubborn sixteen-year-old studying science at night ...

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Marie Curie: A Life

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Overview

One hundred years ago, Marie Curie discovered radioactivity, for which she won the Nobel Prize in physics. In 1911 she won an unprecedented second Nobel Prize, this time in chemistry, for isolating new radioactive elements. Despite these achievements, or perhaps because of her fame, she has remained a saintly, unapproachable genius. From family documents and a private journal only recently made available, Susan Quinn at last tells the full human story. From the stubborn sixteen-year-old studying science at night while working as a governess, to her romance and scientific partnership with Pierre Curie—an extraordinary marriage of equals—we feel her defeats as well as her successes: her rejection by the French Academy, her unbearable grief at Pierre’s untimely and gruesome death, and her retreat into a love affair with a married fellow scientist, causing a scandal which almost cost her the second Nobel Prize. In Susan Quinn’s fully dimensional portrait, we come at last to know this complicated, passionate, brilliant woman.

A brilliant, often surprising portrait--based on new information--that is sure to be the definitive work on one of history's greatest women. Quinn shows in this richly textured work, a well-rounded, in-depth view of Curie as a scientist, a woman, a wife and a lover. 16 pages of photos; notes; index.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Quinn (A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney) presents here a carefully researched, well-rounded study of Curie (1867-1934), the physicist credited with isolating radium. Born Marie Sklodowska in Poland, she left her home to study in Paris, where she met and married physics professor Pierre Curie. Agreeing with earlier accounts, Quinn depicts their marriage as a devoted partnership. The Curies together made an investigation of radioactivity, for which they shared the 1903 Nobel Prize for physics. But Quinn breaks ground in her detailed description, drawn from newly available papers, of Marie's life after Pierre's accidental death in 1906. At first so grief-stricken she neglected her two daughters, Irene and Eva, Marie later had a love affair with French scientist Paul Langevin. Because Langevin was married, Marie was vilified by the French press and was almost denied the 1911 Nobel Prize for chemistry.
Library Journal
This new biography of Marie Curie by the author of A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney (LJ 10/15/87) includes information drawn from previously unavailable letters that Curie wrote to Pierre, her husband, after his accidental death. It also draws on correspondence between Curie and Paul Langevin, with whom she had an affair several years after becoming a widow. The affair, sensationalized in the French press, nearly caused the revocation of her second Nobel Prize. Only the arrival of World War I and Curie's valiant efforts to bring X-ray technology to French army hospitals and even to the front lines succeeded in removing the tainted image from the French public's memory. This is a rigorously researched book with extensive notes and bibliography. It provides much more detailed and balanced coverage of Curie's life than has previously been available. For biography and science collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/94.] --Hilary D. Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Livermore, Cal.
Booknews
Synthesizes the current understanding of the occurrence, structure, chemistry, genetics, assembly, function, and application potential of the monomolecular arrays of protein or glycoprotein subunits now known to be one of the most common surface structures found in prokaryotic organisms. Each of the eight chapters is self-contained to provide a focused treatment of such aspects as chemical composition and biosynthesis, the analysis of proteins and genes, vaccine development based on the technology of the layers, and molecular nanotechnology and biomimetics. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Brenda Grazis
Inasmuch as science was central to the existence of the Curies, Quinn examines their lives vis-a-vis contemporary scientific dynamics. She does this at a level understandable to the general reader, yet with sufficient fact and theory to enable an appreciation of their discoveries. Quinn's portrayal of the sociopolitical milieu of turn-of-the-century France, including nationalism and male chauvinism, is reflected in the shabby treatment afforded the Polish-born Marie, such as twice failing to elect her, the first woman Noble Prize winner, to membership in the French Academy of Science, and, after her scandalous liaison involving the French physicist Langevin, treating her second Nobel Prize as a nonevent. However, Quinn shows that the Curies' unpopular politics, reclusiveness, and eccentricities, such as twice refusing the French Medal of Honor, contributed to their difficulties. A well-written, evenhanded story of dedication, disappointment, tragedy, and extraordinary achievement.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671675424
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/31/1995
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Quinn is the author of two highly praised biographies: A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney and Marie Curie: A Life. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2005

    Good Book!

    This is a very detailed account of Marie Curie and her life. This book explains how Marie came into the field of science, which influenced her, and how her experiments and discoveries were viewed. Marie Curie was influenced by the strong women and political situations in her life. Her discoveries were praised worldwide, earning her the Nobel Prize in 1903.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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