November the 7th is the birthday “of a physicist and chemist who once said, “Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas.” That’s Marie Curie, born in Warsaw (1867), which was then known as the Kingdom of Poland, and was a port of the Russian Empire.
Marie Curie is responsible for developing the theory of radioactivity, which is a term she also coined. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize (1903) and the first and only woman to win twice in multiple sciences. Marie died in 1934 of aplastic anemia, thought to be caused by radiation exposure. Before her death she won the Noble Prize in Physics, and again in Chemistry, the first woman to win, the first to win twice, and the only person to win in multiple sciences. Her husband and collaborator Pierre was killed in a traffic accident in 1906.
Her parents were poor teachers, and after the Russian authorities removed laboratory instruction in the sciences from schools, her father pilfered the leftover lab equipment, brought it home, and let his children use it freely. Curie was an intelligent and curious child, largely self-taught, and because she couldn’t go to University because of her sex, she studied clandestinely at what was called a “Floating University,” a secret set of informal, underground classes held in Warsaw.
Marie Curie died of the effects of radiation exposure. She basically walked around with bottles of polonium and radium in her pockets all the time. She even kept capsules full of the dangerous stuff on her shelf. “One of our joys was to go into our workroom at night; we then perceived on all sides the feebly luminous silhouettes of the bottles of capsules containing our products,” the Nobel Prize-winning scientist wrote in her autobiography. “It was really a lovely sight and one always new to us. The glowing tubes looked like faint, fairy lights.”
Because of the high levels of radioactive contamination, her papers from the 1890s are too dangerous to examine. Even her cookbooks are considered contaminated. Marie Curie’s research is kept in lead-lined boxes.” And it’s not just Curie’s manuscripts that are too dangerous to touch. If you visit the Pierre and Marie Curie collection at the Bibliotheque Nationale in France, many of her personal possessions – from her furniture to her cookbooks – require protective clothing to be safely handled. You’ll also have to sign a liability waiver, just in case…
Reblogged in parts from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Allmanac from November 7, 2016
November 8, 2016, election day: It really touched me when I saw some of the first pictures on Twitter this morning. Suffragist Susan B. Anthony spent her life fighting for a woman’s right to vote. Yet she never lived to see the day a woman could cast a ballot, as she died years before the 19th Amendment was passed. Today, the cemetery where she is buried extended its hours Tuesday “to accommodate those wishing to celebrate their vote” at her gravesite by sticking their “I voted” stickers on her gravestone
Although it is not the first time people have commemorated their votes by visiting Anthony’s grave, this presidential election is the first in American history to have a woman on the ballot as a major party candidate and therefore even more meaningful!
March 8, 2017: Today, on International Women’s Day, the classical spotlight was turned full beam on female composers, both living and historical. But like the British classical review magazine Gramophone wrote, “As an industry we spend a lot of time talking about female composers of the past – about the difficulties they faced, the problem they represent, the challenging lives they led and the societal norms that account for their marginal place in the classical canon – but far less time actually listening to their music.” [you can read the rest of the article HERE]
Because as it turns out, “In far too many cases there simply aren’t the scores or recordings available. It’s a problem that starts in a world that saw Francesco Cavalli able to pay to create and preserve a library of his manuscripts while his equally successful contemporary Barbara Strozzi was not. And its legacy still persists today; Radio 3’s Composer of the Week team have publicly expressed their frustration at repeatedly finding potential female subjects only to discover that there just isn’t enough recorded repertoire available. […] the conversation about women defaults to just a few stars – Hildegard of Bingen, Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger – whose comparatively strong place in the catalogue forces them to speak for all their silent colleagues.” Virginia Woolf was right when she said: “Anonymous was a woman.” Respectable ladies were also not supposed to enter the marketplace, so if their work did appear in print it would often do so without a name, or – as we know from later centuries – under a pseudonym.
Please see a selection of choices that gives space to woman composers with less of a foothold in the repertoire: Like the earliest known opera by a woman, click HERE (and scroll down on the page) and for some contemporary female composers follow this page HERE.