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SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING by Carla Killough McClafferty

SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING

Marie Curie and Radium

By Carla Killough McClafferty

Age Range: 10 - 14

Pub Date: April 12th, 2006
ISBN: 0-374-38036-8
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

An able biography tells, as the subtitle suggests, the stories of both Marie Curie and her famous discovery. After a précis of Curie’s childhood that relies a little too much on daughter Eve’s hagiography, the narrative settles, in measured fashion, on the great scientist’s pioneering work, first with husband Pierre and then without. Liberal use of primary source material gives readers a terrific sense of Curie’s state of mind as she worked and loved, archival illustrations taking them into the Curies’ lab and notebooks. Later chapters intersperse the account of Curie’s life with the meteoric rise and fall of the fortunes of radium, her most famous discovery, drawing heavily on both contemporary news coverage and advertising to demonstrate the near total embrace of radium as a cure-all. Accounts of groundbreaking radiation therapy give way to the travails of the “Radium Girls”—women whose repeated exposure to radium in the paint they used for glow-in-the-dark watches proved fatal. There are many biographies of Curie; this one stands out in its shared focus on her discovery and its legacy. (notes, bibliography, web sites, index) (Biography. 10-14)