Marie Curie, a Polish-French scientist and a pioneer in the study of radioactivity, was born 144 years ago today. She died in 1934, having succumbed to a bone-marrow disease earned after years of handling radioactive samples without protection. To celebrate the life and achievements of this rare woman, we revisit an interview we conducted with Lauren Redniss, author of "Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout" (It Books/HarperCollins, 2010). This odd and beautiful graphic biography of the two Curies—their love and scientific discoveries—was made using an archaic printing process and a typeface designed specially for the project. Historical details about their work on radioactivity are set among dreamy illustrations on luminous pages. Redniss is also a Pulitzer prize-nominated illustrator for the New York Times and a professor at the Parsons School of Design.
When did you first feel the desire to make a book about the Curies?
I had been thinking about love stories. I wanted a certain kind of love story that would have resonance in the world but would also make sense with a visual story. I was talking to a friend on Tenth Street and Fourth Avenue, walking into the Three Lives bookshop in the West Village. We started talking about the Curies and it was a eureka moment because suddenly all the different threads I had been thinking about were woven together. I could picture how the book would unfold. What struck me as an interesting challenge was that the two main themes were love and radioactivity. And both of those things, of course, are invisible. I loved the idea that I could try to make a visual book out of invisible things.
You can read the rest of the interview here.