Monday, October 22, 2007

"Madame Curie"...

I had the opportunity to watch Greer Garson in another memorable movie, Madame Curie. The last movie was Random Harvest. This black and white film set in Paris, is outstanding. Greer plays Marie Sklodowska, a young Polish student of science who has the tenacity and enduring character that it takes to discover a new scientific element "laying the foundation for future discoveries in nuclear physics and chemistry".

Along the way she falls in love with Professor Curie, played by Walter Pidgeon, and together they embark on an adventure of a lifetime that wins them the Nobel Prize in Physics. Marie is fascinated by the discovery that pitchblende radiates light without being exposed to sunlight. After marrying Pierre Curie, she continues her doctoral study in her husbands lab working on finding out why this is possible.

Marie and Pierre work very hard (physically as well as mentally) to discover a minute element that they call radium. They use a process of crystallization to boil down 8 tons of pitchblende ore. Several years later when they get to what they think is their last test, they are discouraged that they don't find crystals of radium in the bottom of the bowl. Only a stain. They end up going to a New Year's Eve party, all the while Marie can't let go of why they failed in separating the radium.

Later that night, or early morning when Marie is telling Pierre about her concerns they realize that "it may only be a matter of quantity and that stain could be radium!" As Pierre unlocks the door, they can see through the shed windows a glow coming from test bowl number 5677!

On the day that Pierre and Marie are to dedicate a new laboratory to further their explorations in science, Pierre is struck down by a horse drawn delivery wagon and dies instantly. In the movie, the professor that introduced Marie to Pierre comes to her aide, when she is stunned into inactivity by her husbands' death. He reminds her of something he said, in a lecture 9 years before, in his classroom at the University of Paris. He was drawing the analogy that not very many students reach for a star and touch it with their fingertips to achieving ones life goals. As she sits in a state of depressed silence, he tells her that she has achieved what others have not and that there are other stars "out there"!

Marie goes on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, being the only women to be awarded the prize in two different fields of science.


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