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The Curies: A Biography of the Most Controversial Family in Science

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Here is the first full-scale biography of the world's most extraordinary family in science; the Curies, whose combined work changed the course of history. Focusing on the lives and relationships behind their magnificent careers, The Curies is the first biography to trace the entire Curie dynasty, from Pierre and Marie’s fruitful union and achievements to the lives and acco Here is the first full-scale biography of the world's most extraordinary family in science; the Curies, whose combined work changed the course of history. Focusing on the lives and relationships behind their magnificent careers, The Curies is the first biography to trace the entire Curie dynasty, from Pierre and Marie’s fruitful union and achievements to the lives and accomplishments of their two daughters, Irène and Eve, and son-in-law Frederic Joliot-Curie. Denis Brian digs deep beneath the headlines and legends to reveal the Curies’ multigenerational saga in its entirety, featuring new, never-before-published personal information as well as newly revealed correspondence and diary excerpts. Brimming with endearing and often amusing anecdotes about this much-misunderstood clan, The Curies reveals a family as closely intertwined in their private lives as they were in their professional endeavors.


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Here is the first full-scale biography of the world's most extraordinary family in science; the Curies, whose combined work changed the course of history. Focusing on the lives and relationships behind their magnificent careers, The Curies is the first biography to trace the entire Curie dynasty, from Pierre and Marie’s fruitful union and achievements to the lives and acco Here is the first full-scale biography of the world's most extraordinary family in science; the Curies, whose combined work changed the course of history. Focusing on the lives and relationships behind their magnificent careers, The Curies is the first biography to trace the entire Curie dynasty, from Pierre and Marie’s fruitful union and achievements to the lives and accomplishments of their two daughters, Irène and Eve, and son-in-law Frederic Joliot-Curie. Denis Brian digs deep beneath the headlines and legends to reveal the Curies’ multigenerational saga in its entirety, featuring new, never-before-published personal information as well as newly revealed correspondence and diary excerpts. Brimming with endearing and often amusing anecdotes about this much-misunderstood clan, The Curies reveals a family as closely intertwined in their private lives as they were in their professional endeavors.

30 review for The Curies: A Biography of the Most Controversial Family in Science

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane in Australia

    If you're looking for a book on Pierre and Marie, it would do you well to pay special attention to the subtitle of this one. The actual text portion of the book is 399 pages, but by page 100 Pierre is dead, and by page 252 Marie is dead, and the remaining 147 pages is all about their daughters, Irene and Eve, and Irene's husband Frederic Joliot. From page 283 onwards, the story is mostly about Frederic's political life. Yes, there is still some science sprinkled in amongst the politics, but not If you're looking for a book on Pierre and Marie, it would do you well to pay special attention to the subtitle of this one. The actual text portion of the book is 399 pages, but by page 100 Pierre is dead, and by page 252 Marie is dead, and the remaining 147 pages is all about their daughters, Irene and Eve, and Irene's husband Frederic Joliot. From page 283 onwards, the story is mostly about Frederic's political life. Yes, there is still some science sprinkled in amongst the politics, but not enough to suit me. Make no mistake, I am a huge fan of Marie and Pierre, and gobble up anything I can about them, so, I don't regret reading this book. But after the death of Marie, I was forcing myself to read the rest. But if you're interested in a well-rounded biography of all of the Curies' immediate family, you'd probably enjoy this book. 3 Stars = It was okay. I don't regret reading it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    India M. Clamp

    Denis Brian begins with imparting a lens (dirty) with this biography. Travels well (hardcover) reader is confounded with yells or “Harlot,” Mad Scientist and family wrecker. As we digest the chapters, deposits---calcium most likely---dissipate. Curies worked well together and it was close family unit (Madame Curie, her husband Pierre Curie and niece) who collaborated on radiographic experiments and were known as the most ingenious family of scientists of their era. Scandalous events and yells of “ Denis Brian begins with imparting a lens (dirty) with this biography. Travels well (hardcover) reader is confounded with yells or “Harlot,” Mad Scientist and family wrecker. As we digest the chapters, deposits---calcium most likely---dissipate. Curies worked well together and it was close family unit (Madame Curie, her husband Pierre Curie and niece) who collaborated on radiographic experiments and were known as the most ingenious family of scientists of their era. Scandalous events and yells of “home wrecker” are a few of the highlights related to Madame Curie. Multiple marriages and in the end, I found a lens polished clear gold in its verifiable form. Scientific and geek poetry this is, thanks to Denis Brian. Buy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Leonor Cortes

    Detalles interesantes de la maravillosa Familia Curie. Entendí un poco mejor el porqué era Marie tan extraordinaria, desde sus Padres y Abuelos, entregados al conocimiento y a la enseñanza. Todo un "clan" dedicado a la búsqueda del conocimiento, los frutos los conocemos, varios premios novel y de literatura, impresionante y maravillosa Familia. Pero, en lo personal, al terminar de leer el libro, me quedó (más) claro que el reconocimiento público es lo menos importante, el conocimiento en sí y la Detalles interesantes de la maravillosa Familia Curie. Entendí un poco mejor el porqué era Marie tan extraordinaria, desde sus Padres y Abuelos, entregados al conocimiento y a la enseñanza. Todo un "clan" dedicado a la búsqueda del conocimiento, los frutos los conocemos, varios premios novel y de literatura, impresionante y maravillosa Familia. Pero, en lo personal, al terminar de leer el libro, me quedó (más) claro que el reconocimiento público es lo menos importante, el conocimiento en sí y la importancia de transmitirlo es lo verdaderamente importante.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amelia

    A really great biography of Marie and Pierre Curie and their daughters and son-in-law. At times it seemed like Eve Curie's story was neglected (perhaps due to the fact that she was the only one who didn't go into science). Also, there was too much emphasis on Joliot's politics towards the end of the biography. Overall, I really enjoyed reading it and am anxious to read more about Marie Curie. A really great biography of Marie and Pierre Curie and their daughters and son-in-law. At times it seemed like Eve Curie's story was neglected (perhaps due to the fact that she was the only one who didn't go into science). Also, there was too much emphasis on Joliot's politics towards the end of the biography. Overall, I really enjoyed reading it and am anxious to read more about Marie Curie.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jody Sperling

    A detailed and very readable account of the absolutely amazing lives of the Curies. I found the stories of two generations of varied and full experiences utterly inspiring. Totally recommend this book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alden

    You think you’re just getting a biography of Maria Sklodowska and her husband Pierre, but then, bonus! You find out their daughters and son-in-law were pretty fascinating characters in their own right. Frédéric Joliot-Curie’s experiences in WW-2, his decision to join the French Communists because they were among the few willing to stand up to the Nazis, the revelations of how things actually were in Soviet Russia, Frédéric’s difficulty accepting them, and the price he paid ... fascinating stuff You think you’re just getting a biography of Maria Sklodowska and her husband Pierre, but then, bonus! You find out their daughters and son-in-law were pretty fascinating characters in their own right. Frédéric Joliot-Curie’s experiences in WW-2, his decision to join the French Communists because they were among the few willing to stand up to the Nazis, the revelations of how things actually were in Soviet Russia, Frédéric’s difficulty accepting them, and the price he paid ... fascinating stuff I never would have learned but for this two-generations-long biography. I’ve heard people claim that war stimulates innovation, but this book shows how war stifled the Joliot-Curie’s work in atomic power, as well.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yblees

    I think most people who pick up this book would already have some knowledge of the Curies and their achievements. What makes this book such a gem is the wonderful detail about their extended family, especially their daughters Irene, and Eve - who was a WW2 journalist with amazing insight into many front line events and characters of the war. And also all the information about Irene's husband, Frederic Joliot-Curie (yes, he adopted the Curie name). Excellent read. I think most people who pick up this book would already have some knowledge of the Curies and their achievements. What makes this book such a gem is the wonderful detail about their extended family, especially their daughters Irene, and Eve - who was a WW2 journalist with amazing insight into many front line events and characters of the war. And also all the information about Irene's husband, Frederic Joliot-Curie (yes, he adopted the Curie name). Excellent read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    April Fratzke

    When Marie and Pierre were alive in the book it was fascinating. I lost a lot of interest once Marie dies. This book could have easily been 150-200 pages shorter. The information about Irene's husband's accomplishments and political leanings were certainly important parts of history, it should have been a separate book. When Marie and Pierre were alive in the book it was fascinating. I lost a lot of interest once Marie dies. This book could have easily been 150-200 pages shorter. The information about Irene's husband's accomplishments and political leanings were certainly important parts of history, it should have been a separate book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Loved it. Readable and consistently interesting. Only complaint was how much time was spent on WWII (25%) considering how little the Curies were mentioned in those chapters

  10. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I began reading this book with excitement about learning more about Pierre and Marie's individual work and their success together. I was surprised how fast it moved, taking me through their childhoods, schooling and courtship. Their bicycle honeymoon was charming, their growing family sweet and Pierre's death absolutely devastating, to the family and the reader alike. Marie Curie suffered from Pierre's loss as a widow and single motherhood and professionally as she had to fight for funding and r I began reading this book with excitement about learning more about Pierre and Marie's individual work and their success together. I was surprised how fast it moved, taking me through their childhoods, schooling and courtship. Their bicycle honeymoon was charming, their growing family sweet and Pierre's death absolutely devastating, to the family and the reader alike. Marie Curie suffered from Pierre's loss as a widow and single motherhood and professionally as she had to fight for funding and respect despite prejudice against her. She was slandered for her friendships with male colleagues, but continued to be brilliant regardless of the pressure and horrible working conditions. She was also a superhero during WWI - cobbling together a homemade ambulance that could take X-Rays. But after some information about her awards, subsequent tours and the always-a-bad-idea of carrying radium in her pocket, she passes away. And there is a still a ton of book left. I guess I didn't take the subtitle literally enough, because then we are left with their daughters, Irene and Eve. And while I'm sure they were perfectly nice girls... I wasn't that interested. And I'm sorry to say I didn't finish the book because Irene's scientific career and Eve's charming, artistic talent just didn't grab me. I enjoyed what I read, but I should have gone with a bio of just Marie.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christina Baehr

    I must admit I didn't read every page, but rather "mined" this book for more details on the Curie family, especially on the unconventional education experiences that kept cropping up. As a homeschooler, I was really fascinated by Pierre Curie's home education as well as the homeschool co-op Marie set up for all the children of her fellow Sorbonne professors. It's worth a blog post, and I hope I'll be able to write one. This is a serious, sincere, deeply thought and researched biography, and I thi I must admit I didn't read every page, but rather "mined" this book for more details on the Curie family, especially on the unconventional education experiences that kept cropping up. As a homeschooler, I was really fascinated by Pierre Curie's home education as well as the homeschool co-op Marie set up for all the children of her fellow Sorbonne professors. It's worth a blog post, and I hope I'll be able to write one. This is a serious, sincere, deeply thought and researched biography, and I think it is so important to see these scientific heroes in their familial context, so kudos to the author. I also appreciated that he was willing to take a more sensitive and cautious approach to Marie's problematic relationship/affair(?) with her husband's friend and student (after Pierre's death - it seems to have come about partly because of her deep shock and grief). Other biographers have not been so kind. I loved the way Einstein keep making little cameo appearances. He's become such a pop figure that I find don't expect him to show up in other peoples lives as a bystander and colleague,and he always comes off as delightfully comic. The only reason I didn't give this 4 stars was that the writing, while inoffensive, never really soared. This is not the kind of biography that grabs you by the throat. If you are interested in the Curies however, you will find it very rewarding.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    The subject matter is interesting. I always enjoy learning more about the Curies. The author introduces a lot of primary material, which is great. But the author's commentary about direct quotes strikes me as unscholarly and they generally seem to be false inferences. For example, in examining Marie's reticence after her earlier heartbreak, the author states, "...that Marie had become something of a manhater (page 42)." Her quotes do not support that premise. Disappointing and distracting. The subject matter is interesting. I always enjoy learning more about the Curies. The author introduces a lot of primary material, which is great. But the author's commentary about direct quotes strikes me as unscholarly and they generally seem to be false inferences. For example, in examining Marie's reticence after her earlier heartbreak, the author states, "...that Marie had become something of a manhater (page 42)." Her quotes do not support that premise. Disappointing and distracting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    I really enjoyed learning about this family and what they accomplished. For the most part this book read easily, though at times the science was a little too technical for me. Near the end I felt like I was getting a history lesson, as talk of the war seemed more about the war than the Curies. All in all, this was a good book for me.

  14. 4 out of 5

    SWC

    I appreciated the depth of detail from the lives of Pierre and Marie Currie. I was somewhat surprised at the depth the book continued into the lives of their two daughters, Eve and Irene, and Irene's husband. However, I was intrigued with their association with world events. I appreciated the depth of detail from the lives of Pierre and Marie Currie. I was somewhat surprised at the depth the book continued into the lives of their two daughters, Eve and Irene, and Irene's husband. However, I was intrigued with their association with world events.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I was pleased to recognize that Marie and her husband are the same temperament type. The intelligence level of these two is staggering, and both of them are so interesting, but half of the book is dry and lacking because it fails to capture much of the uniqueness of the Curies.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaap Hoogenboezem

    The first parts, om Pierre Curie and Marie Curie are very good, I like the latter part less, also because I thought the description of the science was not very clear.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Leo

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Morence

  19. 4 out of 5

    Agatha

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anand Prabhu

  21. 4 out of 5

    Akari

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jurate Gr

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura Nagel

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jenny A Wescoat

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rose

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bluestocking86

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jane Says

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kasiek

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kim

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kimberley Lee

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