MARIE CURIE by Susan Quinn


A Life
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 A touching, three-dimensional portrait of the Polish-born scientist and two-time Nobel Prize winner. Armed with new archival material, including eloquent letters Marie Curie (18671934) wrote to her husband, Pierre, after his death, Quinn (A Mind of Her Own: The Life of Karen Horney, not reviewed) focuses less on the discoveries of radium and radioactivity and more on the personality that stamped Curie as a woman both of and ahead of her time. Here is Maria Sklowdoska, a fierce nationalist growing up under the heel of the Russian occupation of Poland, encouraged to independence and defiance in schools that taught two curricula: One was the official Russian; the other, hidden, was Polish language and history. Then there is Marie, a student in Paris, who chooses physics, mathematics, and Pierre. Idylls bicycling by the sea and in the countryside, the birth of two daughters, and the first Nobel Prize give way to the untimely death in 1906 of Pierre, crushed under the wheels of a wagon on a Paris street. Marie took his place as lecturer at the Sorbonne, yet could scarcely bear to mention his name in public. But there was to be a second love: the physicist Paul Langevin, a devoted student of Pierre's--and a married father of four. Langevin's wife used every weapon, including threats of murder and the publishing of purloined love letters, to save her marriage. She won, turning the world against Curie. In time, the storm passed, Curie's fame was secure, and she presided over a large laboratory and staff, living to see daughter Iräne and her husband, FrÇdÇric Joliot, emerge as scientific standard-bearers in a proud family tradition. Quinn's study makes it clear that Curie's twin passions--for life and for science--sustained her thorough formidable personal tragedies and public catastrophes. (Book-of-the-Month Club/History Book Club/Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selections)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-671-67542-7
Page count: 496pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995


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