Catalogue


Curie & radioactivity /
Paul Strathern.
imprint
London ; New York : Arrow Books, 1999.
description
94 p. : ill.
ISBN
009923842X (pbk.)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
Subjects
personal subject
More Details
series author
series title
imprint
London ; New York : Arrow Books, 1999.
isbn
009923842X (pbk.)
catalogue key
2620420
 
Includes bibliographical references.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
Life and Work MARIE CURIE was born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, the youngest of five children. Her father was a schoolteacher, specializing in physics and math. Her mother was headmistress of the best private girls' school in Warsaw, and the family lived in the apartment behind the school on Freta Street. These were difficult times in Poland, which was under Russian rule. Following the widespread but unsuccessful uprising of 1863, over 100,000 Poles had left the country. Many had gone into exile in such places as Paris and North America, while others had been forcibly shipped to Siberia. After this, Russian rule had become increasingly oppressive: public hangings were still being conducted at the citadel in central Warsaw at the time of Maria's birth. Around 1870 Maria's mother contracted tuberculosis. At the same time her father was demoted at school--largely because he was a Pole, but also because he was (correctly) suspected of sharing his nationalist principles with his pupils. Money was now short in the family, but worse was to come. In 1878, when Maria was ten, her mother died of tuberculosis and her father was dismissed. The family was forced to take in boarders simply to make ends meet. Maria slept in the living room--doing her homework after the others had gone to bed, and rising early to lay the table for the boarders' breakfast. Photos of the period show Maria as a plain intense girl. She had the chubby cheeks of her mother, restrained fluffy curls, and thick, slightly pursed lips. But her appearance was almost the only ordinary thing about her. At school, where she was forced to study in a foreign language (Russian), she demonstrated exceptional ability. She graduated a year early, at fifteen, carrying off the gold medal. And that was it. There was no further education for girls in Poland. Maria was looking a little wan after all her exertions, so she was sent to stay with her uncles. They were remnant members of the landed gentry, with small estates way out in the middle of nowhere close to the Ukrainian border. Here Maria found herself in "oases of civilization in a land of rustics." For the first time in her life (and the last) she lived a happy, utterly carefree life. Aunt Maria was a liberated woman, and expected her daughters to be strong and independent. Young Maria and her cousins visited the neighboring houses of the surprisingly cultured local gentry. Here they played music and read French and Polish literature to one another--a heady brew containing the likes of Chopin and Victor Hugo, as well as the great Polish Romantic poet Mickiewicz and Slowacki, the Polish Byron (both of whom had recently died in exile). On holidays Maria and her cousins would attend country gatherings in local costume, often dancing long into the early hours. This continued for almost a year. When Maria finally returned to Warsaw, she found that her father had lost what little money he had through unsound investments. The family was living in near poverty and Maria took work as a teacher, contributing her wages to the depleted family coffers. But she also made contact with the illegal Polish "free university," which was a "wandering" institution (i.e., it moved from place to place to evade detection by the Russian authorities). As was the practice at the free university, she gave as well as received education. In return for books to read, and occasional lectures, she read to women workers, instilling in them their Polish heritage. At the free university, socialism, science, and skepticism were the order of the day, and Maria soon lost any remnant of religious belief. She began reading widely, in a variety of languages: Karl Marx in German, Dostoevsky in Russian, and poetry in French, German, Russian, and Polish. She even tried writing her own poetry, and worked for the underground magazine Prawda (meaning "truth"; not to be confuse
First Chapter
Life and Work

MARIE CURIE was born Maria Sklodowska in Warsaw on November 7, 1867, the youngest of five children. Her father was a schoolteacher, specializing in physics and math. Her mother was headmistress of the best private girls' school in Warsaw, and the family lived in the apartment behind the school on Freta Street.

These were difficult times in Poland, which was under Russian rule. Following the widespread but unsuccessful uprising of 1863, over 100,000 Poles had left the country. Many had gone into exile in such places as Paris and North America, while others had been forcibly shipped to Siberia. After this, Russian rule had become increasingly oppressive: public hangings were still being conducted at the citadel in central Warsaw at the time of Maria's birth.

Around 1870 Maria's mother contracted tuberculosis. At the same time her father was demoted at school--largely because he was a Pole, but also because he was (correctly) suspected of sharing his nationalist principles with his pupils. Money was now short in the family, but worse was to come. In 1878, when Maria was ten, her mother died of tuberculosis and her father was dismissed. The family was forced to take in boarders simply to make ends meet. Maria slept in the living room--doing her homework after the others had gone to bed, and rising early to lay the table for the boarders' breakfast.

Photos of the period show Maria as a plain intense girl. She had the chubby cheeks of her mother, restrained fluffy curls, and thick, slightly pursed lips. But her appearance was almost the only ordinary thing about her. At school, where she was forced to study in a foreign language (Russian), she demonstrated exceptional ability. She graduated a year early, at fifteen, carrying off the gold medal. And that was it. There was no further education for girls in Poland.

Maria was looking a little wan after all her exertions, so she was sent to stay with her uncles. They were remnant members of the landed gentry, with small estates way out in the middle of nowhere close to the Ukrainian border. Here Maria found herself in "oases of civilization in a land of rustics." For the first time in her life (and the last) she lived a happy, utterly carefree life. Aunt Maria was a liberated woman, and expected her daughters to be strong and independent. Young Maria and her cousins visited the neighboring houses of the surprisingly cultured local gentry. Here they played music and read French and Polish literature to one another--a heady brew containing the likes of Chopin and Victor Hugo, as well as the great Polish Romantic poet Mickiewicz and Slowacki, the Polish Byron (both of whom had recently died in exile). On holidays Maria and her cousins would attend country gatherings in local costume, often dancing long into the early hours. This continued for almost a year.

When Maria finally returned to Warsaw, she found that her father had lost what little money he had through unsound investments. The family was living in near poverty and Maria took work as a teacher, contributing her wages to the depleted family coffers. But she also made contact with the illegal Polish "free university," which was a "wandering" institution (i.e., it moved from place to place to evade detection by the Russian authorities). As was the practice at the free university, she gave as well as received education. In return for books to read, and occasional lectures, she read to women workers, instilling in them their Polish heritage. At the free university, socialism, science, and skepticism were the order of the day, and Maria soon lost any remnant of religious belief. She began reading widely, in a variety of languages: Karl Marx in German, Dostoevsky in Russian, and poetry in French, German, Russian, and Polish. She even tried writing her own poetry, and worked for the underground magazine Prawda (meaning "truth"; not to be confused with the later Russian version, which peddled the opposite).

Fortunately Prawda was devoted to the new religion of science, and Maria soon saw the light. The cryptic algebra and banal formulas of poetry gradually gave way to the soaring poetry of pure mathematics and the romanticism of scientific discovery. Maria had found her subject. But what was she going to do about it? Where could she study it to some purpose?

Maria entered into a pact with her older sister Bronia, who wanted to study medicine. She would work in Poland to finance Bronia's studies in Paris, and then in return Bronia would help her to study science in Paris.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from Curie and Radioactivity by Paul Strathern
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Summaries
Main Description
At a moment of great discovery, one Big Idea can change the worlda Marie Curie had one of the finest scientific minds of the twentieth century, overturning established ideas in both physics and chemistry. She had an equally profound effect in the social arena, challenging the commonly held belief that women were intellectually inferior to men. Her work influenced current cancer research and her exploration of radioactivity was groundbreaking. Curie and Radioactivity tells the captivating story of Curie's early life in which she worked as a governess to support her sister during medical school, through to her later life, as the first person ever honoured with Nobel Prizes in two different sciences. Her untimely death from cancer, due to overexposure to radium, marked the end of an exceptional career of a woman who was ahead of her time and never far from controversy. The Big Idea: Curie and Radioactivity is accessible and absorbing, placing Curie's remarkable life in the context of the times and rendering the essence of her unprecedented discoveries in a form comprehensible even to non-scientists. The Big Idea series is a fascinating look at the greatest advances in our scientific history, and at the men and women who made these fundamental breakthroughs.
Main Description
Marie Curie's contribution to science won her two Nobel prizes. Her research into radioactivity made her one of the most outstanding scientists of the twentieth century. Curie's work on radium furthered our understanding in nuclear physics and caused huge advances in the treatment of cancer. Yet the inherent dangers of her work were unknown. Curie died of leukaemia as a result of years of exposure to radium. Marie Curie has often been seen as an exceptional woman. Her life was upheld as an example to women fighting for recognition and indepen-dence. But Curie was far from being the worthy paragon history recalls. What of public scandal caused by her love affair? And what of the Nobel prize committiee's attempts to force Curie to give up her second award? Curie and Radioactivity presents a brilliant snapshot of Curie's life and work. It gives a clear. accessible explanation of the meaning and importance of the discovery of radioactivity and the implcations this has had for life in the twentieth century and beyond.
Bowker Data Service Summary
Curie has often been seen as an exceptional woman. Her life was upheld as an example to women fighting for recognition and independence. But she was far from being the worthy paragon history recalls, as Strathern reveals.

This information is provided by a service that aggregates data from review sources and other sources that are often consulted by libraries, and readers. The University does not edit this information and merely includes it as a convenience for users. It does not warrant that reviews are accurate. As with any review users should approach reviews critically and where deemed necessary should consult multiple review sources. Any concerns or questions about particular reviews should be directed to the reviewer and/or publisher.

  link to old catalogue

Report a problem