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History Unplugged Podcast

with Scott Rank

The 1911 Meeting of Albert Einstein and Marie Curie that Changed Physics Forever

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In 1911, some of the greatest minds in science convened at the First Solvay Conference in Physics, a meeting like no other. Almost half of the attendees had won or would go on to win the Nobel Prize. Over the course of those few days, these minds began to realize that classical physics was about to give way to quantum theory, a seismic shift in our history and how we understand not just our world, but the universe.
At the center of this meeting were Marie Curie, already a Nobel laureate, and a young Albert Einstein. In the years preceding, Curie had faced the death of her husband and soul mate, Pierre. She was on the cusp of being awarded her second Nobel Prize, but scandal erupted all around her when the French press revealed that she was having an affair with a fellow scientist, Paul Langevin.
The subject of vicious attacks in the French press, Curie found herself in a storm that threatened her scientific legacy.
Albert Einstein, already showing flourishes of his enormous genius, proved a supporter in her travails. They had an instant connection at Solvay. Curie had been responsible for one of the greatest discoveries in modern science (radioactivity) but still faced resistance and scorn. Einstein recognized this grave injustice, and their mutual admiration and respect, borne out of this, their first meeting, would go on to serve them in their paths forward to making history.
Today’s guest, Jreffrey Orens, author of the new book the Soul of Genius describes Curie and Einsteins’ relationship and uses never-before-seen correspondence and notes, revealing the human side of these brilliant scientists, one who pushed boundaries and demanded equality in a man’s world, no matter the cost, and the other, who was destined to become synonymous with genius.
June 08, 2021
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Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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