cover image Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light

Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist, and a Friendship Forged in Light

Liz Heinecke. Grand Central, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-1-5387-1736-3

Science educator Heinecke (The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids) offers a fascinating dual biography of scientist Marie Curie (1867–1934) and dancer Loïe Fuller (1862–1928). “While they were often drawn apart by circumstance—war, loves, and losses—the magnetic power of friendship and a luminescent blue light [radium] pulled them back together again and again,” Heinecke writes. Their connection began in 1901, when Fuller, then dancing at the Follies Bergère in Paris, approached Marie and Pierre Curie with the idea of fashioning “butterfly wings of radium,” one of two chemical elements the couple had recently discovered. Fuller already employed a retinue of electricians to light her uniquely choreographed and produced dances and maintained a laboratory to study fluorescent salts. Heinecke skillfully mines memoirs, journals, and letters to invent dialogue between her subjects and others in their milieu, including sculptor Auguste Rodin and astronomer Camille Flammarion. She convincingly captures the dynamics of Fuller and Curie’s friendship and draws insightful parallels between their lives and careers, in particular their health issues, battles with sexism, and influence on “generations of dancers, artists, inventors, and scientists.” With rich evocations of Belle Époque Paris and accessible introductions to the era’s artistic and scientific breakthroughs, this inspirational portrait of two trailblazing women soars. (Feb.)