she pinned a flower to her dress


The imaginative re-telling of the well known story of Marie and Pierre Curie, their passionate love, their passionate research, their brilliant discovery, blooms in the book Radioactive…Marie & Pierre Curie A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss.

Radioactivity had made the Curies immortal. Now it was killing them.

Early on in our story, we are seeing the lack of fear as Marie and Pierre work to discover radium…not being afraid to be close to it, nor touch it, and treating it like a pet that might be cuddled and kept by Marie’s pillow…so, it must be assumed, they did not yet sense the danger of it.

Marie wrote: “Crystals of barium chloride containing radium are colorless, but when the proportion of radium becomes greater, they have a yellow color…after some hours, verging on orange, and sometimes a beautiful pink.”  

Again we see her fearless enjoyment of the beauties of radium.

“The flame spectrum of radium contains two beautiful red bands, one line in the blue-green, and two faint lines in the violet.”

And later…in the spring of 1910 a flush appeared over Marie’s cheeks.  She pinned a flower to her dress.  She had taken a lover.

But then the magic of X-ray in wartime…
No longer were doctors performing blind exploratory surgeries on already damaged bodies.

It’s a breathtaking and important story.

Marie and Pierre Curie sleep today in Paris’s splendid necropolis, the Pantheon.

Held in the Bibliotheque Nationale, the Curies’ laboratory notebooks are still radioactive, setting Geiger counters clicking 100 years on.

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eBooks by Joan Marsh