Marie Curie coined the term “radioactivity” and it is to her and her husband, Pierre Curie, that we owe much of our current knowledge of the very fabric of reality.
Marie was born in Warsaw, the fifth and youngest child of teachers. Her father taught mathematics and science, for which Mary showed an early affinity, and later went to study in Paris where she met Pierre. The work they did together revolutionized modern science. As well as discovering the atomic rather than chemical nature of radioactivity, the Curies isolated two new elements: polonium and radium.
This biography does full justice to the scientific and human aspects of Marie's life, detailing her tumultuous personal life at a time of social upheaval, and her struggle to gain recognition in an era when female scientists were almost unknown.
Marie Curie died in 1934, succumbing to aplastic anemia as a direct result of her pioneering experiments with radium. Her work not only contributed to our understanding of the structure of the atom - and therefore the structure of the physical world itself - but also laid the foundations for modern medical innovations such as X-rays and radiotherapy. Her example continues to inspire millions of people across the world.
Dr Richard Gunderman is the John A. Campbell Professor of Radiology at Indiana University, US. He is the author of ten books, including the best-selling Tesla: The Man, the Inventor, and the Age of Electricity.