Pierre et Marie Curie


Marya could not get out of the habit of talking to Pierre.

Their conversation had spanned more than eleven years, after all – eleven years of sharing everything, their work and their passions so entwined with their domestic life that they could hardly be disentangled. In their bed at night, Pierre might murmur in her ear some new thought he had had about how to perform the fractionations more efficiently; as she made breakfast for the children, Marya would take up the conversation again, considering the problems of contamination and how to address them. They would argue amicably as they walked to the shed in the Rue Lhomond, or later their laboratory in the Rue Cuvier, planning their experiments, laughing over Irène’s latest exploits, then returning to the problem of how to measure radiation. All day, they would work together, answering each other’s thoughts, checking each other’s equations, or calling out to one another to observe a particularly interesting result – or, more often, to exclaim over another failure, from which useful information could, nonetheless, be gleaned, the better to plan the next experiment.

Between them, there was no question of compromise or of yielding, only of two great and loving intelligences, each knowing the other so well that they were very nearly two halves of one whole. Even Marya, reading over the work they had done together, sometimes forgot which discoveries had been his, and which hers. It hardly mattered. The ideas were what were important, not which of them had had the thought first.

People were always far too curious about individuals, when they should have cared about ideas.

Marya had always cared about ideas. Before Pierre, she had studied at the Sorbonne, obtaining her Masters degrees in Physics and in Chemistry. In her tiny, freezing room in an apartment of the Latin Quarter, she had devoted herself entirely to study, single-mindedly refusing the temptations of company, of food, or of sleep.

It was a different type of perfection; a single wholeness that had tempered her like steel, even as her body fainted from lack of sustenance.  Everything had been set aside, sacrificed to her goal of learning, and it was this single-mindedness – which might also be termed wholeheartedness – that had drawn Pierre Curie to her, and driven him to persist in his courtship, wooing her both in his own person and in the name of science, away from singleness and the love of her homeland.

She had never regretted saying yes until now.

With Pierre, she had learned the habit of conversation, and she did not know how to unlearn it.

“Pierre is dead? Dead? Absolutely dead?”

She could still hear the echo of her own words to Paul Appell, could feel them in her mouth and on her lips as though they had only just been spoken, though it had been nearly three weeks. She must, Marya thought, have said other words since then – she had spoken to her daughters, surely, and to her father-in-law, and to Bronya, who sat beside her even now, silent, helping her as she burned the last of Pierre’s bloody clothes from that terrible day.

And of course, she had spoken to Pierre, as she wept over his poor, broken body, as she lay, dry-eyed and cold in her bed at night, as she wrote to him in her journal, words he would never read.

But that was the easy part, in some ways. Those were the times she knew he was gone. It was the other times – the times when she turned to share a thought with the man who was no longer at her side; when she looked across the table to address him and saw only the face of her father in law; when she woke in the night and found herself alone – that were the worst. They were, each and every one of them, the moment before Paul Appell opened his mouth, the moment before the cart ran over Pierre’s head, the moment before she became a widow.

And then the moment passed, and he was dead. Again.

Even her work could not absorb her attention. She resented Pierre deeply for that – for stealing away her ability to be solitary, and then leaving her, uncoupled and lost.


They offered her a pension first.

She refused, of course. It was some instinct – for survival, perhaps. Marya had never known life without work, and the idea of letting the years stretch ahead of her, without a purpose, was a horror even beyond her present suffering. She might not, just now, be able to bear to go into the laboratory, but that would not always be the case. And Pierre would not wish it of her. He had said so, once – that even if one of them must go on like a body without a soul, one must work just the same.

She knew that her family and Pierre’s were worried about her. She was too withdrawn, too silent. But how could she speak when Pierre was not there to answer?

Marya did make an effort for her daughters, at least. She wasn’t sure if little Eve even understood that Pierre was gone.

And then they offered her his job.

A mere four weeks after Pierre’s death, Paul Appell came to her door once more. She was not ready to see him, and so it was her father-in-law, Dr Curie, who brought her the news.

“The Sorbonne want to appoint you to the Chair of Physics,” he told her. “They have agreed unanimously that you are the only person qualified to carry on Pierre’s work, both as a teacher and in the laboratory. They will even pay you the full salary of ten thousand francs per annum.”

Marya was silent, stunned. This was, certainly, work, and work that was important, but was she even capable of it, without Pierre himself beside her?

Dr Curie put a hand on her shoulder. “My dear, I know that it is hard for you to step into Pierre’s shoes. But Pierre would want you to accept – I am certain of that. Your work is too important to set aside.”

Marya shook her head, still unable to speak, and he sighed. “We have both suffered a great loss, Marya. There is much that can never be made right again. But I will tell you frankly, and as a doctor, that I fear for your health if you continue like this.   I have already lost a son – do not deprive me of a daughter as well. Accept the University’s offer – continue the important work that you and my son pioneered, and in doing so, create a legacy that he can be proud of.”

If she closed her eyes, Dr Curie’s voice was very like Pierre’s. Yet it was not the same. Marya nodded, and looked up into the kind, worried face. She could not possibly live up to Pierre’s legacy, but the University had indeed been generous – and perhaps the offer was as much a mark of their respect for Pierre as it was for her.

She felt tired, and weak, and unexpectedly old. She might not hold this Chair for long anyway, but Dr Curie did not deserve to have to worry about her.

“Very well,” she said. “I will try.”


The problem was that she couldn’t remember how to write a lecture alone.

Oh, she had written plenty of lectures and lesson plans for her students at Sèvres, and of course she had defended her dissertation without difficulty. But she had always had Pierre with her. He had been her first audience and critic, had asked her the most difficult questions, and had suggested examples or turns of phrase when she could find none. She had done the same for him, of course, and far more often – his lecture load was heavier than hers – and she knew what a lecture at the Sorbonne ought to sound like.

She just couldn’t seem to produce one.

It was her brother in law, Jacques, who broke the impasse.

As a fellow professor and a scientist, he knew the difficulties of writing a course of lectures – and as Pierre’s brother and former collaborator, he understood, if anyone could, the scope of Marya’s loss.

She permitted herself to break down completely.

Jacques held her through her tears, hugging her gently. The girls were out walking with their grandfather, and the two were alone in the house.

“My dear Marie, I am so sorry,” he said again, as her tears began to subside. “Is there nothing I can do?”

Marya’s voice was hoarse with weeping. “I just don’t know how to do this,” she said. “The girls – they deserve more than a mother who is a stone statue, but if I stop being stone,” she gestured to herself. “Well, you see what happens! And then our work – I can’t concentrate in the laboratory, because when I do so, I forget that he is gone, and then I remember, and I can’t afford to be like this in front of my colleagues. It’s hard enough for the University to accept a woman as a Professor as it is. And then there is this benighted lecture…” She sighed, heavily. “I don’t know if I can do this without him, Jacques. I don’t know if I can do any of it. I wish…”

“What do you wish?”

“Oh, everything. That Pierre was still alive. That I did not have all this on my shoulders. That I’d never met him.” Her voice, always soft, became nearly inaudible. “That I could hear his voice again.”

“Ah, Marie.”

The room was silent for a long time. There was something comforting about this shared sense of helplessness.

“I’d be very happy to read over your lecture, if that would help,” Jacques suggested after a while. “It would not be the same, of course, but…”

Marya smiled faintly. He was a truly kind man. All of Pierre’s family had been so good to her. “It would be welcome nonetheless,” she said.

“As for the rest…”

Marya held up a hand to halt him. “Jacques, I did not expect you to come here and solve all my woes. Indeed, I am not sure they can be solved. Pierre is gone, and he will not be coming back – there is no solution for that.”

“I suppose not. But…”

Marya sighed and prepared herself to receive advice politely. What was it to be – better food? More exercise? A holiday, or perhaps a return to the laboratory to face her fears? Stoicism, or giving vent to emotion? She had heard all these suggestions in the past months, and had even tried a few. None of them helped.

“I wonder if you were aware that Madame Palladino is in Paris at present?”

“The spiritualist? Oh, no, Jacques…”

Marya and Pierre had visited Madame Palladino on several occasions, not to seek her advice, but simply to observe, as scientists. It was Pierre’s opinion that the results produced by Madame Palladino and others like her were caused by a force similar to magnetism or electricity – perhaps even a similar source to radiation.

“Why ‘oh no Jacques’? I thought you and Pierre were quite impressed by her? He certainly wrote to me that the phenomena she achieved were impressive and there were no signs of fakery. Do you not agree?”

“I held her hands myself, and I do not believe she was faking, though we were able to obtain similar phenomena through more natural means in our laboratory. Though, not with our hands bound. In my opinion, her abilities remain interesting, but unproven. And while I do not think her a deliberate liar, I am more inclined to ascribe her abilities to natural forces that we do not yet comprehend than to intervention by the dead.”

Jacques smiled. This was more animation from Marya than he had seen for some time. “Perhaps not, but we have, if you will pardon me, a perfect test case. You know things about Pierre, and he about you, that nobody else could know. And – I know my brother. He told me once that you were the other half of his soul. If there is a way for spirits to see us, and to communicate from Beyond, you may be sure that he would recognise your intent now, and come to find you… Ah, my poor girl!”

For Marya was weeping again. She shook her head when he would have put an arm around her again, dashing away tears almost angrily.

“You make a good argument,” she conceded. “But the spirits, if indeed they were present, never spoke through Mme Palladino. They only moved things around. One could hardly test such a spirit in any useful sense! And if my husband is levitating glassware in the afterlife, I am not certain that I want to know it.”

Jacques laughed a little, and changed the subject.


He knocked on the door of her study a few days later. “I spoke to Mme Palladino,” he announced, without preamble.

Marya turned to look him, her pen still in her hand. “Jacques, you are very kind, but we have already discussed this.”

Jacques smiled. “Not entirely. Mme Palladino had a friend visiting. A Mme Tomczyk, from Warsaw.”

“Warsaw! Does she have news of my family?”

“She does not move in those circles. Mme Tomczyk is more in the way of a colleague of Mme Palladino. But she claims to hear the voices of the dead, and to channel them in her work.”

Marya sighed with frustration. “And so I suppose you have asked her to use her gifts to try to contact Pierre.”

Jacques looked a little uneasy. “Well, yes.”

Marya wiped her pen, carefully, then laid it down on the desk. “Jacques…”

Her brother in law did not let her finish. “I asked on my own behalf as much as yours. I intend to go, whether you accompany me or not. But I thought… with you there, it could be a true test. I know that you are more skeptical than I about these matters, but between us, we know Pierre as no other could. If it is indeed his spirit speaking, we will know. And… I miss my brother too, Marya. But if he were to come at all, it would be for you.”

Marya sighed.  She did not doubt Jacques’ grief. And she knew that he was, indeed, far less skeptical than she was. While she had always maintained a certain distance from Madame Palladino’s philosophies, Jacques had embraced the Spiritualist notions of a life beyond death and had even sought counsel from a medium after the death of his and Pierre’s mother. He would, she feared, be all too eager to believe that Mme Tomczyk could communicate with Pierre. His mindset would not be that of a scientist, but of a grieving brother, and if Mme Tomczyk was less than honest, Marya was not at all sure that Jacques would avoid being deceived.

Marya might be a grieving widow, but she was a scientist first and always. She could not find comfort in something that she could not show to be true. If Pierre wished to communicate with her through a medium, he would find a way to do so that she could test and prove to her own satisfaction. If he could not find such a way, he would not be Pierre.

And, regardless of whether he was able to do so, he would certainly wish for her to protect his brother, who deserved better than falsehoods from an imposter. She frowned. Another burden, then, but one that she must not set aside.

“Very well, Jacques,” she said. “I will come.”


Mme Tomczyk was a young woman, with black hair, fine, rather dramatic features, and a quiet manner. She captured Marya’s hands in hers, and expressed her condolences in Polish, then shook Jacques’ hand in a more businesslike manner.

“Come,” she told them. “We are quite ready for you. I have spoken to Little Stasia, and she believes that she can make contact with Professor Curie. The photograph you gave me was very useful,” she added to Jacques.

“I thought it might help you to have a reference,” he agreed.

“Certainly.” The young woman led them towards a darkened parlour.

“Little Stasia?” queried Marya.

“My control. She will speak to your husband, if she can, and convey his words to you.”

Marya raised her brows, but said nothing.

The parlour was small, and furnished with a small round table and three chairs. These furnishings nearly filled the room – Marya supposed that séances for larger groups must be held elsewhere. One window would have looked out onto the street, but the curtains were drawn and pinned in place, and the room was lit only by a single candle on the mantelpiece behind Mme Tomczyk’s chair. There was a small vase of lilies on the table.

Marya took her seat on the medium’s right, as instructed, then held out her right hand to Jacques who took it. Mme Tomczyk took her left hand and Jacques’ right, completing the circle, and bowed her head.

“We will now pray for God’s blessing and protection, and that the spirits will see fit to grace us with their wisdom,” she announced.

Marya felt that a prayer for wisdom and discernment might have been more apt, but she kept her thoughts to herself. She held Mme Tomczyk’s hand tightly.

“Very good,” said Mme Tomczyk. “Now we shall see if the spirits are ready to speak to us.”

She closed her eyes, and the three sat in silence for several minutes. Marya looked around her. She could hear faint noises from the street below; people arguing, and a horse-drawn cart rattling by. There was a familiarity to the scene, from the size and shape of the table to the lilies in their vase. She had been to so many séances with Pierre that his absence here was almost as palpable as it was in their home.

There was a slight breeze, and Marya shivered. Mme Tomczyk spoke again. “Little Stasia, is that you?”

The table shook, but the vase did not move.

Mme Tomczyk’s head fell back, and her eyes opened, staring at the ceiling. She spoke again, this time in a lighter, girlish voice. “I am here. There is one who wishes to speak with you.”

Jacques leaned forward eagerly. “Is it my brother? Is it Pierre?”

The high voice spoke again. “Husband to one, brother to another, beloved by all. The thread of his life was cut too soon, and there is much left undone. Will you speak with him?”

Marya found her hand tightening on Jacques’ in spite of herself. Yet there was no proof yet; only the evidence that Mme Tomczyk knew how to speak in different voices.

Best to let this play out, and observe what could be observed. “We will speak with him,” she said.

Mme Tomczyk’s head turned towards her, staring at her with wide eyes as though she could hear Marya’s thoughts. “Then you must trust and not doubt,” she said, still speaking in that child’s voice. “Do not seek to touch one who has gone beyond the veil, nor to test one who is beyond all the tests of this world, but hear what wisdom and love he has to share with you.”

Marya pressed her lips together, but Jacques spoke before she could. “Of course. We understand and are eager to hear.”

The medium’s hard gaze stayed on Marya for a moment longer, then she nodded, and stared straight forward again. “Hear, then, and believe.”

There was a long silence. Jacques hand was cold in Marya’s, and she felt her fingers begin to tingle. The voices outside the window were very loud in the stillness; they were arguing about a bicycle, Marya thought, and smiled a little at a sudden memory of her honeymoon with Pierre so many years ago, cycling around the south of France. She heard a soft hiss, and Jacques gasped as the air above the lilies began to glow.

An image formed in the air – Pierre, serious and scruffy and intense, as he appeared in all his photos, but glowing slightly, as if his outline had been traced with uranium salts.

Marya gasped herself, her hand reaching out involuntarily to touch the beloved face, but Jacques caught her before she could break the circle. She swallowed a sob. She had not expected to be so affected by this.

“Pierre, kochanie, is that truly you?”

Ma mie, have you forgotten my face so soon?”

The medium now spoke in a deep voice that was not at all like Pierre’s, but Marya supposed that a female throat could hardly manage a male resonance convincingly. Her accent was not quite right, either, but this was probably not conclusive.

“Of course not, my love. I miss you terribly.”

Marya frowned as she spoke. This was not going to work. Even if Pierre were truly present, she could hardly share her soul with him here, in front of Jacques and through a stranger. It would be like undressing in public.

Pierre must have thought the same, as his expression did not change. “You must not grieve for me. I am very well here.”

Marya laughed, a little bitterly. “How shall I not grieve? You may be well, but I have your children to raise, your work to carry on, your students to teach, and all without you. Everything I do reminds me of your absence. I am half of myself – less than half.”

She bit her lip. This was more than she had meant to say. Jacques squeezed her hand, and then spoke.

“Pierre, my dear brother. We have all missed you. Our father would send his love, I’m sure. He is still living with Marie and the girls. Is our mother with you?”

Pierre continued to look grave. “She is not with me today, but I see her often. She is at peace. She loves you, and is watching over you.”

Jacques seemed pleased by this, but Marya frowned a little. She could not help noticing that Pierre had said nothing that a stranger might not say in his place. And even as her whole self yearned towards him, a little part of her could not help considering that Pierre had looked just so in that photograph they had had taken with Irène last year…

She reminded herself firmly that too much skepticism was as dangerous as too little, and addressed the vision.

“Pierre, my love, they have asked me to take over your classes and your work at the Sorbonne.”

“I have seen. I know. I am proud of you.”

Not very conclusive.  She tried again.

“My dear Pierre, I do not know if you can see it, but you glow as brightly now as though you, too admit rays. Can you tell me if this is a similar form of emanation to those we have studied?”

“These things are mysteries that cannot be comprehended by those who have not crossed the veil.”

“But Pierre, you know that if the emanations that you now produce are of a similar type to those produced by radium or polonium, this is vitally important for our work! The rays that we have found have a mineral origin, and are expensive and time consuming to isolate – and yet we know that they have many uses. If such emanations can be created spontaneously by spiritual means, the possibilities would be enormous.”

The deep voice boomed angrily. “These matters are not for the living! Be content with what you know, and do not seek to understand what is beyond your understanding!”

This, then was not her husband.  It could not be – her Pierre had been as much in love with knowledge as she, and would never have told her to stop seeking it, no matter what the circumstances.  Marya swallowed a surge of grief. She had not truly believed that she would speak to Pierre again, but only now did she realise how much she had hoped to be wrong.

She bowed her head. Mme Tomczyk did not deserve to see her tears – and Jacques needed to know the truth in a way he could not deny.

“Very well, my love. At least we had our lives together. And I will always remember that you named Polonium for me. The most radioactive element ever found, and you named it for my beloved homeland.”

Jacques made a sudden movement, and she clasped his hand warningly.

The photo – and yes, it was surely a photo, or a projection of one, however Mme Tomczyk had achieved that effect – regarded her sombrely. “Yes. Everything was for you. But I must go now. We will speak again. I love you.”

And the image vanished.

Mme Tomczyk sat up with a groan. “Did he speak?” she asked.

Marya answered before Jacques could. “Yes,” she said. “He told me everything I needed to know.”

Mme Tomczyk excused herself, claiming exhaustion, and it was left to her maid to show Jacques and Marya out.

The door was hardly shut behind them before Jacques spoke. “Polonium is not the most radioactive element.”

Marya smiled a little. “I know.”

“And that was not Pierre”

“No, it was not. I’m sorry.”

Jacques sighed. “I am the one who should apologise. I subjected you to a fraud. I should have checked Mme Tomczyk’s credentials before I brought you here.”

Marya shook her head. “It does not matter. It would not have been the same in any case.”

Above them, a window opened. “Mme Curie!”

Marya looked up enquiringly. It was the housemaid who had showed them out.

“He says ‘don’t carry the tubes in your pocket’.”

Marya blinked. “Excuse me?”

“’Don’t carry the tubes in your pocket.’ And then he said ‘moy scarbia’. Or something like that.” The young woman shrugged. “I didn’t understand that bit.” She shut the window.

Jacques frowned. “I didn’t understand any of it.”

But Marya was smiling, even as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. “Mój skarbie,” she said. “My darling. His accent always was terrible.”


The lecture hall was crowded, but not with students. Indeed, the students from Pierre’s class had had to fight to hold onto their seats, such was the interest in Madame Curie’s first lecture as a Professor of the Sorbonne – the first woman ever to hold such a position.

Marya smiled a little grimly even through her nerves, as she waited for the clock to strike the hour. Always, this fascination with the peculiarities of people, when ideas were what was sacred. Well, her audience would be disappointed today. Not the students, of course – Marya would never put an obstacle in the way of someone’s education – but the gossips from the press and from society would certainly not be delighted with her. She wore the same simple black dress that she always wore under her laboratory apron, and her lecture would commence at precisely the point where Pierre’s final lecture had left off. It was a technical lecture on the subject of electricity, and she saw no need to simplify the language for the sake of her audience. The students would understand her; and the sooner the others departed, the better.

In her left pocket, she carried Pierre’s last letter to her. In her right, sealed in its tube, rested the first gram of radium she had isolated. In the dimness of the antechamber, she could almost imagine that she could see its blue glow through her skirts.

As the clock ticked towards two, Marya closed her eyes and thought of her husband, of the love they had shared for over a decade, of the work they had done which had already begun to change the world. She did not remember Pierre’s last words to her – that final morning had been a rush of breakfasts and preparation and meetings – but she remembered a holiday a few weeks before he died, and Pierre’s voice in her ear: “Life has been sweet with you, Marie.”

Life had been sweet, and would never, perhaps, be so sweet again. But she had had eleven years with him; eleven years of love and work – of ideas and conversation.

The conversation had ended, but Pierre would live on, in Marya’s heart and in her work.

She stepped up to the lectern, and began to speak.

“When one considers the progress that has been made in physics in the past ten years, one is surprised at the advance that has taken place in our ideas…”



Physics, Romance and Grief

Pierre et Marie Curie station is located just outside the Boulevard Périphérique and the 13th arondissement, in the South East of Paris.  It is one of the newer stations on Line 7, having opened in 1946 with the name Pierre Curie, and was renovated in the mid 2000s, opening in 2007 with the name Pierre et Marie Curie.

This story owes a lot to Eve Curie’s biography of Marya Slovodska Curie, Madame Curie.  Eve wrote this biography of her mother only a few years after her death, and it is a very personal and quite emotional biography, which I found quite harrowing to read.  I wanted, originally, to write about Pierre and Marya’s courtship and love story, but Eve included so many of the actual letters that Pierre sent to Marya that I felt it was impossible to do their story justice in fiction – the reality was sweeter than anything I could write.  Pierre even learned Polish for Marya, and named polonium after her beloved homeland (she was disappointed when it turned out that radium was by far the stronger radioactive element).

My next inspiration was fuelled by outrage at Eve’s description of the many, many ways in which the Sorbonne and the French government failed to recognise the work of the Curies.  They did most of their work on polonium and radium in a shed formerly used for autopsies, with minimal electricity and a leaky roof – and yes, contamination was a real problem.  Pierre was repeatedly passed over for Professorships and membership of the Academie, and when he finally was offered one – after he and Marya had won the Nobel Prize in Physics, it came with no laboratory space (and no salary for Marya).  He was eventually offered a small laboratory and a position for Marya only a few months before he died.  Clearly, nothing much has changed in the world of research funding.  I did, in fact, start writing this story – which came all too easily! – but decided that nobody really wanted to read black comedy about reviewers rejecting funding applications from Nobel laureates, not even me.

Which brings me to this rather melancholy story, which takes place shortly after Pierre’s sudden death on April 19, 1906.  According to her daughter, Marya fell into an intense depression after Pierre’s death, and wrote a diary addressed to him.  For a long time, she could not even bring herself to go to the laboratory.  She did eventually recover, though it seems to have taken her quite a while, and she continued to live an active and very impressive life.  I’m not going to go into lots of detail here, because that would be a book in itself, but one of her more noteworthy accomplishments (aside from her second Nobel Prize) was her creation, during the War, of 20 mobile radiology units, which she would drive to the front lines so that patients could be examined and even operated on under x-ray.  She also set up 200 radiology units at hospitals near the front lines (in many cases, by dismantling the mobile units and rebuilding them in local hospitals once she had arrived), and trained 150 women, including her daughter Irène, to operate them.

Marya and Pierre really did visit spiritualists, including Madame Palladino, on several occasions, and took detailed notes on the phenomena, which they thought might be related to their work.  Pierre, by the evidence of his letters, was quite impressed by Palladino; it is unknown what Marya thought. Certainly, she took part in the experiments.  Pierre’s brother is also thought to have been a Spiritualist.  (The internet has quite a lot of opinions about the Curies and spiritualism.)  Alas, Palladino was eventually uncovered as a fraud (well after Pierre’s death).  The Curies do not seem to have consulted Stanislawa Tomczyk, but she was active at the right time, and Polish, which I think might have drawn the fiercely patriotic Marya to her.  She was also eventually proved a fraud.

While it seems that Marie Curie informed her students and colleagues about safety precautions with regard to radiation, she was rather lax in her own practice – for years she carried that first gram of radium around in her pocket.  She died on July 4, 1934, of aplastic anaemia, resulting from her prolonged exposure to radiation.  Even today, those who wish to access her papers from the 1890s onwards must wear protective clothing and sign a waiver before doing so, as even her cookbooks are still highly radioactive.

The images I have used here are all freely available from WikiMedia.  The diagrams in the story are of Uranium, the first radioactive element to be discovered; Polonium and Radium, which were discovered together by the Curies; Actinium, which was discovered by André Louis Debierne, a friend and colleague of the Curies, and Francium, which was discovered by Marya’s student, Marguerite Perey.  The final image is a drawing by André Castaigne titled ‘M. and Mme. Curie Experimenting with Radium’.  This is in the public domain.


Mairie d’Ivry
fleur7left Pierre et Marie Curie
fleur7right Porte d’Ivry

4 thoughts on “Pierre et Marie Curie

  1. Gillian B

    Permission to sniffle?

    It hurt more that he wasn’t there than if he had been. Although the maid – shades of “Blithe Spirit”?

    1. Catherine Post author

      I’m glad it worked for you, even if it made you sniffle! I’m not sure what Blithe Spirit is, but Pierre certainly had been having words with the maid…

      Thank you for lending me the Eve Curie biography – as you see, it made an impression!


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