Marie Curie: A Life by Susan Quinn - review by Wendy Holden

Wendy Holden

Managed to Keep her Feet on the Ground

Marie Curie: A Life

By

Heinemann 320pp £17.99 order from our bookshop
 

‘If the rabble continues to be occupied with you, simply stop reading that drivel. Leave it to the vipers it was fabricated for.’ Charles to Camilla? John Major to Jonathan Aitken? Bill to Hillary (or vice versa)? Well, Albert Einstein to Marie Curie, actually.

Marie Curie, great scientist, discoverer of radium and glowing midwife at the birth of nuclear physics, was also one of the first to discover tabloid meltdown. At the same time that she received her second Nobel prize and was on the verge of being the first woman ever to enter the French Academy of Sciences, Marie Curie was being dragged through the mud by a Parisian popular press determined to portray her as a marriage-breaker and a threat to the sanctity of the French home. That a woman who lived her entire life among test tubes, alembics and measuring instruments should ever have come to this is only one of the ironies of Curie’s wildly eventful life, as presented in this marvellous, sympathetic and exhaustively researched book.

As children, the young Marie and her siblings lost their mother and elder sisters, and were brought up by their father, a school-teacher to whom each moment was a pedagogical opportunity. Wladyslaw Sklodowski would use the school labs at night to teach his children biology. Watching the sun go down

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter