Happy birthday, Marie Curie!

Celebrating the Mother of Modern Physics’ long-lasting impact

Marie Curie—an icon in physics, chemistry, and beyond—is widely recognized as one of the most influential figures of the scientific community. The first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and the only woman ever to receive two, her research into radioactivity, her discovery of radium and polonium, and her groundbreaking contributions towards cancer treatment have earned her a title as the “Mother of Modern Physics.

Along with her incredible scientific achievements, Curie has long been regarded as a pioneer and feminist icon, fighting for her place in a male-dominated field and paving a path for women in science. To celebrate Marie Curie’s 155th birthday, we take a look at works that show how her accomplishments fit into the bigger picture and highlight just how much her impact continues to ripple throughout the world.

The cover of The Curie Society, featuring the four main characters floating in a zero gravity lab space. One character rides a hoverboard; one stands with a fist forward; one wears a pair of red glasses and holds a walkie-talkie; the last wears headphones and is shown mid-forward flip. The background of the image features a palatial lab space, with a domed glass ceiling, a large portrait of Marie Curie on the wall, smaller portraits below, and a roaring fire in the fireplace. Two floating cameras dodge between the girls.

The Curie Society by Heather Einhorn, Adam Staffaroni and Janet Harvey; edited by Joan Hilty

An action-adventure original graphic novel, The Curie Society follows a team of young women recruited by an elite secret society—originally founded by Marie Curie—with the mission of supporting the most brilliant female scientists in the world. The heroines of the Curie Society use their smarts, gumption, and cutting-edge technology to protect the world from rogue scientists with nefarious plans. Readers can follow recruits Simone, Taj, and Maya as they decipher secret codes, clone extinct animals, develop autonomous robots, and go on high-stakes missions.

“A delightful mix of engaging adventure and fascinating science. An excellent way of learning lots of science ideas and sharing in the lives of characters who have a passion for it.” —Clifford V. Johnson, physicist and author of The Dialogues

Cover of The Atom by Jack Challoner, featuring a sphere of colorful dots against a black background. The inside of the sphere depicts a red, blue, and white atom-like figure; beyond the inner figure is a surrounding sphere of pink-purple dots; beyond that is a surrounding sphere of teal dots.

The Atom: A Visual Tour by Jack Challoner

Until now, popular science has relegated the atom to a supporting role in defining the different chemical elements of the periodic table. In this book, Jack Challoner places the atom at center stage. The Atom investigates the quest to identify the smallest, most fundamental constituents of matter—and how that quest helps us to understand what everything is made of and how it all works. Challoner covers a wide range of topics—including the development of scientific thinking about atoms and the basic structure of atoms; how atomic interactions account for the familiar properties of everyday materials; the power of the atomic nucleus; and what the mysterious quantum realm of subatomic particles can tell us about the very nature of reality.

“A delightful read for those seeking to learn how chemistry and physics have so rapidly evolved over the last 200 years.” —New York Journal of Books

The cover of On the Trail of Blackbody Radiation, featuring a black circle with a hazy white-grey aura surrounding its edges. The circle sits against a black background.

On the Trail of Blackbody Radiation: Max Planck and the Physics of his Era by Don S. Lemons, William R. Shanahan and Louis J. Buchholtz

In the last year of the nineteenth century, Max Planck constructed a theory of blackbody radiation—the radiation emitted and absorbed by nonreflective bodies in thermal equilibrium with one another—and his work ushered in the quantum revolution in physics. In this book, three physicists trace Planck’s discovery. They follow the trail of Planck’s thinking by constructing a textbook of sorts that summarizes the established physics on which he drew. By offering this account, the authors explore not only how Planck deployed his considerable knowledge of the physics of his era but also how Einstein and others used and interpreted Planck’s work.

“This is a unique historical resource for teachers, students and researchers seeking a deeper understanding of blackbody radiation.” —Harvey S. Leff, Reed College and California State Polytechnic University

Cover of The Radiance of France, featuring a stone etching of two nuclear towers set against a bright orange background.

The Radiance of France, New Edition: Nuclear Power and National Identity after World War II by Gabrielle Hecht

In the aftermath of World War II, as France sought a distinctive role for itself in the modern, postcolonial world, the nation and its leaders enthusiastically embraced large technological projects in general and nuclear power in particular. The Radiance of France asks how it happened that technological prowess and national glory (or “radiance,” which also means “radiation” in French) became synonymous in France as nowhere else.

“Historian Gabrielle Hecht has brilliantly deployed the tools of the engineer, anthropologist, literary critic, and social theorist to analyze how the nuclear industry became integral to France’s revival after World War II.” —Herrick Chapman, New York University

Cover of Invisible Colors, featuring three ghostly white flowers, slightly wilted, with leafy green stalks. Two are in the foreground and one is slightly behind, visible between the two in front. The background of the image is dark and the flowers are shrouded in darkness.

Invisible Colors: The Arts of the Atomic Age by Gabrielle Decamous

The effects of radiation are invisible, but art can make it and its effects visible. Artwork created in response to the events of the nuclear era allows us to see them in a different way. In Invisible Colors, Gabrielle Decamous explores the atomic age from the perspective of the arts, investigating atomic-related art inspired by the work of Marie Curie, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the disaster at Fukushima, and other episodes in nuclear history.

“As Invisible Colors brilliantly argues, art and humanities must keep the nuclear memory radioactive and alive. Because recording and remembering are also political acts.” —We Make Money Not Art

Cover of Women in Science, featuring three portraits of famous scientific women.

Women in Science: Antiquity through the Nineteenth Century: A Biographical Dictionary with Annotated Bibliography by Marilyn Bailey Ogilvie

“Was Marie Curie the only woman in science?” This question, asked by a college student trying to write an essay on women in science, planted a seed that grew over a decade of research into this informative and accessible biographical dictionary and bibliography. At the heart of this biographical dictionary are profiles of 186 women whose work is representative of the participation of women in the science of their time and culture. Despite the increasing attention devoted to women’s history in recent years, our knowledge of many of these women is still meager, and the book will serve as much as a guide to future research as a resource for historians, librarians, students, and the general public.

“What comes across is the great love of doing science that many women have shared with men. What is also apparent are the formidable barriers that have been thrown up against them.” —Chet Raymo, Boston Globe

Cover of Mathematics for Ladies, featuring the title and author name in yellow text on a grey background. In the center of the cover is a yellow pen-line drawing with swoops and clouds and dots.

Mathematics for Ladies: Poems on Women in Science by Jessy Randall

Hilarious, heart-breaking, and perfectly pitched, these carefully researched poems about historical women in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine will bring you to both laughter and outrage in just a few lines. A wickedly funny, feminist take on the lives and work of women who resisted their parents, their governments, the rules and conventions of their times, and sometimes situations as insidious as a lack of a women’s bathroom in a college science building.

“I never get tired of learning about women who achieved great things despite obstacles. There are so many of them—and so many of them did not get their due.” —Katha Pollitt, Women’s Review of Books

An image of the Women of Science Tarot Deck box. The black box is posed with the spine facing forward, with the title and MIT Press colophon on the spine. The cover shows the white tarot card design.

Women of Science Tarot by Massive Science

The Women of Science Tarot Deck is a card game that helps us tell stories about our future based on principles of science. Each major arcana card features a fundamental scientific concept like extinction, diversity, or gravity. The 56 minor arcana cards feature inspirational women who have changed the course of STEM. The lively illustrations are by neuroscientist and comic artist Matteo Farinella. For readers new to tarot or those who want to learn more about women in STEM, accompanying the deck is a guidebook with biographies of all the women featured on the cards as well as information about the major arcana cards.

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