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Curie and Radioactivity by Paul Strathern
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Curie and Radioactivity

by Paul Strathern

Series: The Big Idea

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385492464, Paperback)

Author Paul Strathern simply and emphatically describes Marie Curie--the pioneering scientist who coined the term "radioactivity"--as "the twentieth century's most exceptional woman." After reading this compact book's 99 pages, you'll likely be inclined to agree.

In the Madame Curie installment of The Big Idea biography series (see also Einstein and Relativity, Hawking and Black Holes), we learn how a young Polish woman managed to bring up two daughters as a single mother while still earning two Nobel prizes and ushering in post-Newtonian science. Strathern humanizes this secular saint, recounting her romances, struggles, and scandals, admirably defeating the cold portrayal she received in the 1938 biography penned by her daughter Eve (a skewed description, Strathern says, that depicted Curie as "one of the most perfectly boring women imaginable").

As with Strathern's other drive-by life stories, this lean little book is not exactly brimming with hard science, and the author's familiar tone doesn't always quite connect. Nonetheless, Curie and Radioactivity ably accomplishes what it sets out to: in less than an hour, you'll find yourself on a first-name basis with one of the century's most exceptional scientists--and women. --Paul Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:01 -0400)

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