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Radioactive!: How Irène Curie & Lise Meitner 
Revolutionized Science and 
Changed the World

women's hist_conkling_radioactiveRadioactive!: How Irène Curie & Lise Meitner 
Revolutionized Science and 
Changed the World
by Winifred Conkling
Middle School, High School   Algonquin   227 pp.
1/16   978-1-61620-415-0   $17.95
e-book ed. 978-1-61620-555-3   $17.95

While there have been plenty of biographies of Marie Curie for teens, little has been published for this audience about her daughter, Irène. Conkling’s biography takes an unusual approach, delving into the separate but ever-so-slightly-overlapping lives of Irène Curie, the Nobel Prize–winning French physicist who co-discovered artificial radioactivity, and Austrian physicist Lise Meitner, who co-discovered nuclear fission. Although the two women hardly came in contact with each other — and when they did they frequently disagreed — they had much in common: both were pioneers in their fields, yet remained underappreciated in the larger cultural narrative of scientific endeavors. Both faced immense prejudice within the scientific community, and Meitner doubly so for her Jewish heritage while living in Nazi Germany. Both “saw science as a tool to improve society and enhance the lives of the next generation”; they were horrified that their discoveries were used to create atomic weapons during World War II. Conkling details the women’s personal and professional lives from their childhoods to their deaths at ages fifty-eight and eighty-nine, respectively, spending the majority of the book detailing their accomplishments and their lasting impact on the commercial, military, and scientific realms. Informative sidebars provide useful overviews of related science, but their placement is sometimes disruptive; captioned photographs are included throughout, and back matter includes a timeline, a glossary, a “who’s who,” chapter notes, and a bibliography.

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Kazia Berkley-Cramer

Kazia Berkley-Cramer is a former editorial intern at The Horn Book.

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