Saturday, November 24, 2007
Like Na and Cl
That's how much Pierre and Marie Curie were meant for each other.
Like "Young Tom Edison" and "Edison the Man," this 1940s biopic about the life and work of Madame Curieis a little dated in the way it makes its larger-than-life subject seem a little more human. And yet it is sweet and absolutely watchable.
I just opened Eve Curie's biography of her mother, upon which the movie is based, last night. Our library's copy is so old, a school girl's notes for a book report dated 1978 fell out from between the pages. Oliver Sacks tells of giving a speech in which he calls it the best biography he ever read -- then notices an elderly lady in the audience smile in approval. After the lecture, Eve Curie autographed his original copy for him. (Apparently, he carries it with him!)
Some interesting chemical moments in the film include watching the Curies distill tons and tons of pitchblende down, using acids and hundreds of evaporating bowls, until they are left with only a sample of pure radium so small it looks like a stain on the bottom of the bowl. What did they do with all the uranium they discarded? Was the small burn on Marie Curie's palm really the only damage the radioactive material did to the scientists?
I'll have to read the book to find out.