“I HAVE HAD AN AMERICAN SCIENTIST DOING EXPERIMENTS WITH THE RADIUM YOU GAVE ME.
OF COURSE, I HAVE DONE EXPERIMENTS WITH IT TOO, AND WILL CONTINUE”
“I AM SENDING YOU… THE SIGNED CONTRACT FOR MY BOOK,
AND THE IMPROVED TEXT OF THE STORY OF MY LIFE”
“I WOULD LIKE TO DO AS YOU ADVICE [SIC] ME AND TO GO TO AMERICA,…
RATHER THAN TO BE CURED.”
CURIE, MARIE. (1867-1934). Polish-born French chemist, two time Nobel Prize winner, the only woman to receive two Nobel Prizes in two different fields. Superb Typed Letter Signed, “M. Curie,” in English, on imprinted Faculte des Sciences de Paris letterhead. One very full page, quarto. “12, rue Cuvier, Paris,” November 5, 1922. To “My dear friend. [Mrs. William Brown Meloney, an influential American magazine editor.” Curie writes:
“I am sending you, under separate cover, the signed contract for my book, and the improved text of the story of my life. It would be a very friendly service, if you consented to read it through and to give your opinion on the new text.
I tried to smooth what might seem neglected in the former rapid writing, and added, at several places, such details as seemed of some interest. I also made an introduction of a few lines. At the end, I thought necessary to write a few lines on what you did for me in America, giving to this an extension in correspondence with the whole.
As for the biography of my husband, I still consider that passages of too much technical character could be cut out. It ought to be done, of course, before printing. Do you know if Mrs. Kellog and those who have kindly reviewed the translation, would advice to let it be as it is, or to make some abbreviations? Please also tell me if their [sic] is necessary to send some pictures, or if there are enough, and what are they; I don’t remember anymore. I thank you for having accepted to examine the demand of Dr. Behnerjec [?]. It is not that I am acquainted with him more closely. I was with him in the same commission of the Society of Nations, and he seems a distinguished man. I don’t think that he cares much about getting out much money for lectures in United States. I think rather that he wants to make his country known and to help it in the opinion of your compatriots. Still, it may be that he wants a minimum of reward to make the thing materially possible! As soon as you have an opinion on the possibilities, please, let me know. Of course, I absolutely don’t know what it is he will tell people. I suppose he wants to get support for better conditions of popular education in India (I mean, moral support, things being difficult there because of political conditions). Please, look at it only from the point of vue [sic] of general interest and don’t take my words for a personal insistence, because I really have no opinion on the utility of this undertaking.
I would like to do as you advice [sic] me and to go to America, to see my friends again, rather than to be cured. But I have very much work, courses beginning and students arriving, and I must take care of all. I expect for the school-year better progress than for the last one, things are improving very slowly. Have I told you that I have had an American scientist doing experiments with the radium you gave me? Of course, I have done experiments with it too, and will continue presently. I have nothing new to say about my family. Irene is working very cheerfully, and Eve is engaged in very absorbing musical studies. Next Tuesday we will have lunch with Theo Mead. She has stayed with my sister who likes her very much. What is Harriet Eager doing? Is she not coming back to Europe? All my love to you, and please, remember me to your husband and your son. M. Curie.”
By 1922, Marie Curie, the recipient of two Nobel Prizes and the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne, had reached the pinnacle of international fame. In 1920, Curie, fast becoming a living legend, resolved to make the most of her fame. Overcoming her distrust of journalists, she agreed to give an interview to Mrs. William Brown Meloney, an influential American magazine editor, and, mostly likely, the recipient of the above letter; it was after all Meloney that assisted Curie with both the book and the gift of radium mentioned in this letter.
Encouraged by their initial meeting, Meloney arranged for Curie to write the autobiographical work mentioned in the above letter, and had even secured an American publisher. Curie happily agreed. Not only would the book provide income for her in the following years, but, more importantly, the romanticized literary style she applied to her life helped increase public support and inspired people to donate to her research. A shrewd self promoter, Curie also utilized the interview as a forum to directly address the most pressing need of her Radium Institute in Paris, just now resuming normal operations after the devastation of World War I, radium. Acting upon Curie’s expressed wish for a second gram for her research, Meloney quickly organized the “Marie Curie Radium Campaign.” Led by a committee of wealthy American women and distinguished American scientists, the group solicited the $100,000 necessary to secure the gram of radium. Due in large part to Meloney’s tireless efforts, the organization’s goal was soon reached, and, on May 20, 1921, Curie visited the White House to receive the gift from President Harding.
Inspired by the success of fundraising in the United States, other countries and private institutions soon followed suit. By 1922, these funds raised by these numerous sources allowed Curie to devote herself to directing the Radium Institute, fast becoming the world center for the study of radioactivity, as well as the first major laboratory devoted to a single subject. Even with the pressing concerns of teaching and directing research at the Radium Institute, Curie somehow found time to serve on the commission on International Cooperation for the League of Nations, where she worked to protect researchers’ intellectual rights for their discoveries from 1922 until her death. A most remarkable letter written at the height of Marie Curie’s international fame.