Part hidden history, part love letter to creative innovation, this is the true story of an unlikely friendship between a dancer, Loie Fuller, and a scientist, Marie Curie, brought together by an illuminating discovery.
At the turn of the century, Paris was a hotbed of creativity. Technology boomed, delivering to the world electric light, the automobile, and new ways to treat disease, while imagination blossomed, creating Art Nouveau, motion pictures, and modernist literature. A pivotal figure during this time, yet largely forgotten today, Loie Fuller was an American performance artist who became a living symbol of the Art Nouveau movement with her hypnotic dances and stunning theatrical effects. Credited today as the pioneer of modern dance, she was perennially broke, never took no for an answer, spent most of her life with a female partner, and never questioned her drive. She was a visionary, a renegade, and a loyal friend.
In the early 1900s, she heard about Marie Curie's discovery of a glowing blue element and dreamed of using it to dazzle audiences on stage. While Loie's dream wouldn't be realized, her connection with Marie and their shared fascination with radium endured. Radiant is the true story of Marie Curie and Loie Fuller, two revolutionary women drawn together at the dawn of a new era by a singular discovery, and the lifelong friendship that grew out of their shared passion for enlightenment.
Science educator Heinecke (The Kitchen Pantry Scientist: Chemistry for Kids) offers a fascinating dual biography of scientist Marie Curie (1867 1934) and dancer Lo e 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 pulled them back together again and again," Heinecke writes. Their connection began in 1901, when Fuller, then dancing at the Follies Berg re 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 poque Paris and accessible introductions to the era's artistic and scientific breakthroughs, this inspirational portrait of two trailblazing women soars.