During late 1800’s, early 1900’s women were generally considered intellectually, emotional and physically inferior, hardly worth educating beyond the high school level. Through sheer determination and incredible, single-minded hard work, Marie Curie managed to break through the gender bias and become the first woman ever to be awarded her doctorate by a French college. Marie, with the support of her beloved husband Pierre, first identified and isolated two new elements, polonium and radium as well as determined the new property of radioactivity. She later went on to win two Nobel Prizes amid a sea of controversy, due in part to the prevailing attitudes of the time that thought women were capable of being adequate assistants but able to make creative leaps of logic. Throughout her later years, Marie continued her groundbreaking research aided by one of her daughters and though radiation’s effects had been noted on rodents, she failed to understand how working with radium led to her fragile health.
Ogilvie is to be commended for presenting a well-rounded look at the woman behind the icon in this thoroughly researched biography. She examines Marie’s early formative years growing up with a distant, standoffish mother suffering tuberculosis and a father who encouraged the inquisitive young girl. Marie’s efforts to gain an education and pursue her passion for science, her failed romances and eventual marriage to Pierre as well as later controversy prove that there was much more to this extraordinary woman then a one-dimensional scientist.