Sunday, February 5, 2012

Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie by Lauren Redniss

Marie Curie was born in Poland in 1867, won the Nobel Prize twice, and became the first female professor at the Sorbonne in 650 years. Her story is absolutely remarkable. Opening with an apology to Marie Curie, who stated, "There is no connection between my scientific work and the facts of private life," Lauren Redniss goes on to explore both in graphic novel format. Marie's husband, Pierre Curie, figures prominently in all this, of course. They were passionate about each other as well as dedicated to their research.

The atomic bomb is probably the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the significance of the groundbreaking work done by the Curies, but there are many others. Redniss intersperses examples throughout. Page 70 describes Pierre's experiments with strapping radium against his own skin; the facing page recounts the experiences of a 14-year-old American who received radiation treatments for non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 2001.

Redniss' cyanotype prints feature simple line drawings that take up whole pages. Many of them have the colouring of blueprints, giving an x-ray effect, others glow in yellow, orange and red. Phosphorescent pigment is used on the cover, so this book literally glows in the dark. (I discovered this by having it on a bookshelf near my bed.) Check out the striking artwork on Redniss's website (scrolling to the bottom to get to the link to the interior pages).

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