A Raunchy and Radioactive Story of Scientific Scandal.Posted: March 31, 2011
So far, our newborn of a blog seems like it may or may not be written by white supremacists. And by that I mean it has focused largely on the sexploits of political, literary, or artistic men from Western culture. In the next week or so, we’re going to try to diversify this blog hard.
Until it looks like the cover of an Ivy League admissions brochure, if you know what I mean.
We’re going to begin by discussing a SCIENTIST! (Oooohh ahhhhh) And not just any scientist, a LADY scientist! But the fact that she was a woman is kind of irrelevant. Like, you know how people will say, “Oh, she was the first WOMAN to win an Oscar for Best Director.” Well, Marie Curie was the first HUMAN to do something really important and science-y.
Shall I elaborate? If you insist. She and her long-time french hubby, Pierre, scored a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, and in 1911 she won another Nobel Prize in Chemistry by herself. Bitch was the first person to win two Nobel prizes in separate sciences and IS THE ONLY PERSON who has ever done that in all of Nobel history. PERIOD. (I’m not saying she was ON her period, I’m just saying that’s the end of it, she’s the only one, good for her etc. etc. It’s not all about periods just because she’s a lady who does lady things.)
When Marie was in Paris in 1894, studying the magnetic properties of various kinds of steel, she found herself ATTRACTED to a certain instructor at the Ecole named Pierre Curie who, as it turned out, was also studying magnetism. The two made it offish in 1895 and apparently had a really great marriage/intellectual partnership. Which made it really sad when 1 wedding, 2 daughters, 1 Nobel prize, and 12 years later, Pierre was killed in a freak accident. He was caught under a horse and carriage (which is what we had before cars) and fractured his skull, which may or may not have been the result of bone weakening due to prolonged exposure to radiation. WOOPS!
Our heroine was devastated, but she managed to pull herself out of the drudgery of widowhood to become the first female professor at Sorbonne (more like sore BONE, am I right?!) and head of the University’s laboratory (un-fucking-heard-of.)
Oh yeah, and in 1910, right before she won that big ol’ Nobel Prize for Chemistry, she started getting it on with her husband’s former student, Paul Langevin, who was (you guessed it!) married with 4 children.
When Curie’s academic rivals (mostly male) found out about the CHEMISTRY between Langevin and Curie, they were like, “Omigod! We finally have a reason to shit on the smartest woman in the world who’s been making us look like chumps for the past few decades” and they told everyone they fucking knew. Us Weekly was, like, all over that shit. And People Magazine bought the rights to photograph their love den. The National Inquirer even interviewed Paul’s wife and kids.
No, not really. I’m contextualizing, motherfuckers. The point is, the whole debacle was a big freaking scandal in France and served as major fuel for Paris’ boy’s club of scientists who were super jeal of Marie’s brainy accomplishments. She was plastered all over the tabloids as a home-wrecking bitch and somehow all of these wild accusations against Curie triggered an episode of mass xenophobia in France. Curie was originally from Poland so people started to flip their shit about her being Polish and even started to speculate that she might be a Jew! Which she wasn’t — don’t get me wrong, we’d like to take credit for this badass shiksa, but she’s not a member. Newspapers spread rumors that her affair had started before Pierre’s shocking death (11 years before) and that his knowledge of it drove him to commit suicide (by throwing his head under a carriage wheel — seems unlikely to me, but what the hell.) She was painted as an evil, Jewish foreigner who had stolen the husband of a good, kind Frenchwoman.
Needless to say, BIG. FUCKING. DEAL. And I don’t think I’m really going out on a limb here saying that looking back, it seems pretty clear that her academic competitors were pretty eager to catch her doing something wrong because she was doing some majorly important science that they couldn’t understand so much due to the fact that they probably weren’t as smart as she was.
But it sort of speaks volumes, I think, that when we hear the name “Curie” today, we think about her contributions to science and not of the torrid love affair that ended in tabloid-induced scandal and the subsequent social abuse of her and her family.
And by “her contributions to science,” obviously what I mean is the fact that her lab notebook is still too radioactive to be approached and that before she was interred in the French Pantheon, no vegetation grew within a certain radius of her grave because of her body’s radioactivity. And, oh yeah, she has an element named after her! NBD.
Marie Curie is a GLOWING example of a woman with sass and smarts, who refused to let her delightfully scandalous love affair define who she was or the impact she made in the field of science.
Of which, of course, we understand nothing. But since she used to carry bright green, glowing test tubes inside her pockets, we’re fairly confident that she was a BFD, and a major badass.