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Obsessive Genius


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Barbara Goldsmith's previous bestsellers include Little Gloria ... Happy at Last, Johnson v. Johnson, and Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull. She lives in New York City


Marie Curie's ability to focus her intelligence on what she wanted to accomplish is legendary, and in this exploration of Curie's "obsessive genius" Goldsmith (Little Gloria... Happy at Last) has produced a finely detailed and well-researched biography. But she has interwoven with Curie's scientific progress the emotional and personal costs involved, from Curie's early years as a governess to the ongoing battles for sexual equality in the scientific academies of Europe. The hypocrisy of the times, particularly regarding Marie's affair with Paul Langevin (her late husband's student), is so striking that one wonders why Curie retained her incredible loyalty to France. Unlike Susan Quinn's detailed Marie Curie, which concentrates on Curie's scientific life, Goldsmith focuses on the social and economic hurdles that Curie had to overcome to manage the roles of scientist, wife, mother, and staunch French wartime ally. She also provides an excellent portrait of the age in which Marie Curie was to do so much for the world. Recommended for all libraries.-Hilary Burton, formerly with Lawrence Livermore National Lab, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Never a dull moment...Goldsmith leads the reader through a wonderland of facts with just the right blend of science and story. In the end, the mystery of the great Madame [Curie] remains, but a deeper understanding of what she went through as a woman and a scientist shines as strong as her radium." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"Bestselling historian Goldsmith incisively chronicles [Curie's] intensely dramatic life...Her powerful portrait reveals a woman of great passion, genius, and pain who changed the world." -- Booklist, starred review

So enduring is the reputation of Marie Curie that more than 100 years after she won her first Nobel Prize, for physics in 1903 (she won a second, for chemistry, in 1911), Curie (1867-1934) is still regarded by most as the pre-eminent woman scientist of the 20th century. Goldsmith's straightforward biography illuminates both the public Curie, a tireless scientist obsessed with work, and the private one, a woman who suffered bouts of severe depression, was distant from her children and scarred deeply by the accidental death of her scientist husband, Pierre, in 1906. Using long-sealed Curie family archives, Goldsmith offers a well-rounded view of her subject that makes good dramatic use of the considerable intrigue that surrounded Curie's scientific accomplishments and her private life. Goldsmith also reminds us, without belaboring the point, that Curie overcame obstacles, including pervasive sexism within the scientific community that almost cost her the Nobel. Goldsmith is also adept at demonstrating that for Curie the nexus of public accomplishments and private happiness was tenuous. Although Curie continued working after Pierre's death, Goldsmith says she never allowed his name to be spoken: "Never again would there be a sign of joy." Goldsmith, biographer of Gloria Vanderbilt and Victoria Woodhull, is weakest at explaining the theoretical basis for Curie's scientific breakthroughs, which set the stage for the exploration of the atom. B&w illus. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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