The Curies: A Biography of the Most Controversial Family in

D. Brian

Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005, 438 pages, $30

Marie , born Marie Sklodowska, grew up in , went with the famed Italian medium Eusapio Palladino, a police state under the Russian czar Alexander II. Her who would perform se´ances with Pierre and . mother was headmistress of a prestigious girls’ boarding Pierre afterward would take notes describing levitating school, and her father, a professor and assistant principal in tables and mysterious music heard in the distance. The a boys’ school. Her family struggled under a Russian rule book also describes how the Curies dealt with the public determined to eradicate the language, culture, and history recognition that accompanied their professional achieve- of the Polish people. After graduating from high school at ments, including the scandalous love affair made public the top of her class, Marie Curie worked as a governess between Marie Curie and her colleague Paul until she followed her older sister to to study at the Langevin. The scandal escalated to such heights that many Sorbonne’s Faculty of . journalists and editors, as well as Langevin himself, fought , on the other hand, was born a Parisian. Both duels over the honor of Madame Curie. Many wondered his father and grandfather were physicians. His parents how Marie, a dignified and reserved scientist seemingly thought that the child Pierre was too sensitive and intro- devoted to her work, could be involved with breaking up spective for the rigid French classroom, and they decided homes and dishonoring her name. to teach him at home. Growing up for Pierre was difficult, The second part of the book follows the accomplish- particularly because his father was an outspoken radical ments of their 2 daughters, Ire`ne and Eve, and their son-in- siding with the revolutionary Paris Commune, causing him law Frederic Joliot-Curie. In the tradition of the Curie to lose desirable, wealthy patients. At 16, because of his pre- family, Ire`ne and Frederic Joliot-Curie continued radiation disposition to mathematics, Pierre entered the prestigious research, eventually earning a in Sorbonne and received a degree in and later worked for the synthesis of new radioactive elements. In contrast, as a laboratory assistant. Eve Curie, not having the scientific predisposition of the The Curies: A Biography of the Most Controversial rest of her family, sought to make her mark in music. Later, Family in Science follows these simple beginnings of Marie she turned to journalism and provided the most famous and Pierre Curie—how they would meet, marry in 1895, biography of her mother. The final chapter of the book and become one of the most distinguished scientific fami- discusses the further achievements of the offspring of the lies in history. Their joint researches into radioactive polo- Curies. nium and , painstakingly separated from several tons The Curies: A Biography of the Most Controversial of pitchblende, earned them the with Family in Science is an in-depth look at the scientific Henri . Eight years later, Marie Curie earned a tradition produced by 2 generations of Curies. Although, second Nobel Prize, in chemistry, for the separation of polo- for the general reader, too many details are given at times, nium and radium. Marie became not only the first woman the story of the Curies, placed in their historical and po- in science to earn 2 Nobel Prizes but also the first woman to litical context, is fascinating. I recommend this book to be appointed professor at the Sorbonne. anyone interested in the history of science. The book is not limited to just the scientific achieve- ments of the Curies; the author also focuses on the lesser Robert Matthews known controversial events in their lives. One interesting Stony Brook University Hospital chapter describes the psychic research the Curies under- Stony Brook, New York

COPYRIGHT ª 2007 by the Society of Nuclear , Inc. DOI: 10.2967/jnumed.107.041780

1224 THE JOURNAL OF NUCLEAR MEDICINE • Vol. 48 • No. 7 • July 2007