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Showing posts from February, 2006

The Curies – Denis Brian ****

The Curies’ story is one that many thought they knew, so the subtitle of Denis Brain’s book, “A Biography of the Most Controversial Family in Science”, is one that inspires interest. What was so controversial? Let’s see… What’s without doubt is that this is both a fascinating and important story, that Brian tells in detail with obvious affection for his subjects. Part of the Curie story, their huge effort working through tonnes of pitchblende in their shed of a laboratory, exposed to deadly radiation as they attempted to isolate radium is very well known, but this has already happened before page 100 of a 400+ page book. In fact Pierre Curie dies in a tragic traffic accident on page 100 – but the Curie family story is only just beginning. There comes the bizarre public obsession with Mme Curie’s possible affair with fellow scientist Paul Langevin (even leading to a number of duels, though no one was killed) and the increasing role of her daughter Irene, later to form her own Nobel-win…