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Essay on Saki's The Interlopers vs
At this point, however, her discovery remained incomplete, unfounded, theoretical. As Redniss writes, “It was as if the elements had been grasped only by shadows, and so could be considered no more definitive than, say, the word of a Spiritualist medium.” The Curies, along with other Parisian scientific eminences, happened to frequent séances, and speculated that there might be a connection between these mysterious phenomena and the radiation they were studying. If the Spiritualist professions were true, Pierre wrote, they would be among the most important scientific discoveries ever. Harder heads resisted the claims both of Spiritualism and of the latest physics. Physicists might be inclined to buy what they couldn’t see or touch — they believed in rays — but chemists were not so readily convinced. Identifying the elements by their radiation was not the same as isolating and weighing them.
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In “,” her doctoral dissertation, Marie summarized the procedure. With the aid and advice of the chemist Gustave Bémont, the Curies worked to separate out known elements from the pitchblende. Their initial work indeed produced substances many hundreds of times more radioactive than uranium, suggesting the presence of some new, unknown element. Eventually, after months of painstaking work, the Curies were able to purify the substance enough that spectroscopic analysis showed an absorption of wavelengths of light that could not be caused by any previously known elements. This method gave additional evidence for the existence of a new element, which Marie called polonium, after her native country. Within months, the Curies had also discovered radium, which, millions of times more radioactive than uranium, would become her signature achievement. But as Goldsmith writes, the process by which these discoveries were made was as revelatory and far-reaching as the discoveries themselves: