Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

The Elements of Marie Curie

How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science

by Dava Sobel

The acclaimed Pulitzer Prize finalist and #1 New York Times bestselling author of Galileo’s Daughter crafts a luminous chronicle of the life and work of the most famous woman in the history of science, and the untold story of the many young women trained in her laboratory who were launched into stellar scientific careers of their own

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 336
  • Publication Date October 08, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6382-0
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $30.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date October 08, 2024
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6383-7
  • US List Price $30.00

“Even now, nearly a century after her death, Marie Curie remains the only female scientist most people can name,” writes Dava Sobel at the opening of her shining portrait of the sole Nobel laureate decorated in two separate fields of science—Physics in 1903 with her husband Pierre and Chemistry by herself in 1911. And yet, Sobel makes clear, as brilliant and creative as she was in the laboratory, Marie Curie was equally passionate outside it. Grieving Pierre’s untimely death in 1906, she took his place as professor of physics at the Sorbonne; devotedly raised two brilliant daughters; drove a van she outfitted with x-ray equipment to the front lines of World War I; befriended Albert Einstein and other luminaries of twentieth-century physics; won support from two U.S. presidents; and inspired generations of young women the world over to pursue science as a way of life.

As Sobel did so memorably in her portrait of Galileo through the prism of his daughter, she approaches Marie Curie from a unique angle, narrating her remarkable life of discovery and fame alongside the women who became her legacy—from France’s Marguerite Perey, who discovered the element francium, and Norway’s Ellen Gleditsch, to Mme. Curie’s elder daughter, Irène, winner of the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. For decades the only woman in the room at international scientific gatherings that probed new theories about the interior of the atom, Marie Curie traveled far and wide, despite constant illness, to share the secrets of radioactivity, a term she coined. Her two triumphant tours of the United States won her admirers for her modesty even as she was mobbed at every stop; her daughters, in Ève’s later recollection, “discovered all at once what the retiring woman with whom they had always lived meant to the world.”

With the consummate skill that made bestsellers of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter, and the appreciation for women in science at the heart of her most recent The Glass Universe, Dava Sobel has crafted a radiant biography and a masterpiece of storytelling, illuminating the life and enduring influence of one of the most consequential figures of our time.

Praise for Dava Sobel:

“Sobel is a master storyteller . . . What she has done, with her choice of excerpts and her strong sense of story, is bring a great scientist to life.”—New York Times, on Galileo’s Daughter

“[Sobel] shows herself a virtuoso at encapsulating the history and the politics of science. Her descriptions of Galileo’s ideas… are pithy, vivid, and intelligible.”—Wall Street Journal, on Galileo’s Daughter

“Sobel does wonders clearly explaining scientific principles… [She] is a most original writer, with a reverence for history and storytelling.”—USA Today, on Galileo’s Daughter

“A gem of a book.”—New York Times, on Longitude

“A simple tale, brilliantly told.”—Washington Post Book World, on Longitude

“As much a tale of intrigue as it is of science . . . A book full of gems for anyone interested in history, geography, astronomy, navigation, clockmaking, and—not the least—plain old human ambition and greed.”—Philadelphia Inquirer, on Longitude 

“Ms. Sobel writes with an eye for a telling detail and an ear for an elegant turn of phrase . . . A joy to read.”—Wall Street Journal, on The Glass Universe

“Sobel lucidly captures the intricate, interdependent constellation of people it took to unlock mysteries of the stars . . . The Glass Universe positively glows.”—NPR

“An elegant historical tale…[from] the master storyteller of astronomy.”—Boston Globe, on The Glass Universe

“Sobel mixes discussions of the most abstruse topics with telling glimpses of her subjects’ lives, in the process showing how scientific and social progress often go hand in hand.”—New Yorker, on The Glass Universe

“A peerless intellectual biography. The Glass Universe shines and twinkles as brightly as the stars themselves.”—The Economist

“Playful . . . Lyrical . . . A guided tour so imaginative that we forget we’re being educated as we’re being entertained.”—Newsweek, on The Planets

“[The Planets] lets us fall in love with the heavens all over again.”—New York Times Book Review

“[Sobel] has outdone her extraordinary talent for keeping readers enthralled . . . A splendid and enticing book.”—San Francisco Chronicle, on The Planets