This year’s Go Big Read book, Radioactive by Lauren Redniss, tells the story of Marie and Pierre Curie, a European couple responsible for discovering the atomic properties of radioactivity. The couple won a Nobel Prize in physics and Marie went on to win another in chemistry as she continued her research after Pierre passed away. The Curies’ discovery gave way to the nuclear technology we embrace today in the realms of energy production, medicine and warfare. Author Lauren Redniss will be speaking about the book at Union South at 7:00 p.m. Monday, October 15.
Although Marie Curie never ventured to the UW campus, the Daily Cardinal and Wisconsin Alumnus publication covered the story of Madame Curie coming to America. She was invited to the White House by President Harding to receive a $100,000 gram of radium. The gift was made possible by donations from thousands of American women and in part by the University of Wisconsin with a contribution of $147.50. Before she went to Washington, D.C. Curie appeared at Carnegie Hall to be honored for her scientific advancements. She was greeted by the largest assemblage of college women in the U.S. to date.
Marie Curie conducted all of her work far before scientists were aware of the damaging effects caused by radioactive isotopes. She regularly carried these elements in her pocket, conducted research in a shed, and never used protective gear that is now standard in nuclear and radioactive research. Even her possessions are untouchable, including her cookbook and papers from the 1890s.