Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World

Radioactive!: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World

by Winifred Conkling


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The fascinating, little-known story of how two brilliant female physicists’ groundbreaking discoveries led to the creation of the atomic bomb.

In 1934, Irène Curie, working with her husband and fellow scientist, Frederic Joliot, made a discovery that would change the world: artificial radioactivity. This breakthrough allowed scientists to modify elements and create new ones by altering the structure of atoms. Curie shared a Nobel Prize with her husband for their work. But when she was nominated to the French Academy of Sciences, the academy denied her admission and voted to disqualify all women from membership. Four years later, Curie’s breakthrough led physicist Lise Meitner to a brilliant leap of understanding that unlocked the secret of nuclear fission. Meitner’s unique insight was critical to the revolution in science that led to nuclear energy and the race to build the atom bomb, yet her achievement was left unrecognized by the Nobel committee in favor of that of her male colleague.

Radioactive! presents the story of two women breaking ground in a male-dominated field, scientists still largely unknown despite their crucial contributions to cutting-edge research, in a nonfiction narrative that reads with the suspense of a thriller. Photographs and sidebars illuminate and clarify the science in the book.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781616206413
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date: 02/20/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 338,869
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)
Lexile: 1160L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

Winifred Conkling is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction for young readers, including Passenger on the Pearl, Radioactive!, Votes for Women!, and the middle-grade novel Sylvia & Aki. You can find her online at

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: “The Most Beautiful Experiment in the World” 1
Chapter 2: Little Queen and the Other Baby 20
Chapter 3: On the Battlefields 35
Chapter 4: Dr. and Mrs. 46
Chapter 5: Right on Time 59
Chapter 6: Lost and Found 67
Chapter 7: A Lab of Her Own 80
Chapter 8: Radium: Treatment or Toxin? 91
Chapter 9: Heavy Metals 100
Chapter 10: Fleeing Hitler’s Germany 108
Chapter 11: Eureka! The Discovery of Fission 123
Chapter 12: Chain Reaction: Research on Fission Goes Global 135
Chapter 13: War 150
Chapter 14: Overlooked 169
Chapter 15: Afterword: Physicists, Pacifists, Realists 179
Time Line 191
Glossary 194
Who’s Who 198
Chapter Notes 202
Bibliography 212
For More Information 214
Web Resources 216
Acknowledgments 218
Index 219

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