What was it like to be a woman and a scientist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? This biography of Marie Curie offers many details of her family and childhood in Poland and her monk-like devotion to research in France. After persisting through the rather pedestrian text, one concludes that Curie's career was marked by an unusual number of unpleasant ironies. Through intense determination and backbreaking work, she triumphed by discovering new radioactive elements, but her health was seriously damaged from exposure to radioactivity; her husband Pierre became contaminated, though he died prematurely in a traffic accident. Marie's brilliance resulted in two Nobel Prizes, but her acceptance was clouded both times by prejudice against her as a woman. Despite bringing acclaim and devoted war service to her adopted country, she was rejected for membership in the French Academy of Sciences. Travels in America brought her further fame and lionization, which she found only exhausting and distracting. After turning her laboratory over to her scientist daughter, Marie Curie died from pernicious anemia caused by radiation damage to her bone marrow. Though the book's design is not visually appealing, the many black-and-white photos of the Curies are fascinating; postcard pictures colored in sickly greens and browns echo the format's old-fashioned look. Was Marie's discovery of radioactive elements worth the suffering and a legacy of destruction, pollution, and contamination? Aspiring scientists who make it through the sometimes tedious details will find this biography both inspiring and depressingrewarding, but definitely cautionary.
This is an interesting and readable introduction to the scientist. Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1867, Marya Salomee Sklodowska grew up with three sisters and one brother. Her mother and oldest sister died when she was 10. She valued learning and was determined from a young age to continue her education in spite of the challenges of poverty and gender. In her teens, she attended a "Floating University" that operated in defiance of Russian rule. She moved to Paris to continue her studies. There, she met Pierre Curie, and she devoted her life to research, first with him and then without, following his tragic, accidental death. Yannuzzi paints a picture of an amazing woman who overcame one obstacle after another to win the Nobel Prize twice. Black-and-white and color illustrations are included. This book pairs well with Carla Killough McClafferty's excellent Something Out of Nothing (Farrar, 2006), which has more detailed information on Curie's research and its repercussions.
Deanna RomriellCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.