| For the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union USA TODAY NETWORK
“Radiant: The Dancer, the Scientist and a Friendship Forged in Light”
Author: Liz Heinecke
Grand Central Publishing, 307 pages, $28
Marie Curie, renowned scientist, and Loie Fuller, dancer extraordinaire. At first glance, an unlikely couple. But no, their friendship makes perfect sense. They lived in Paris, at the beginning of the 20th Century known as the Belle Epoque, when so many inventions staggered the mind: the automobile, the electric light bulb, motion pictures and much more.
Fuller’s dancing was magical, and though she may or may not be remembered by people who aren’t connected with the today’s dance community, she is, in fact, recognized as an innovator in the world of modern dance and known for her achievements, notably using light to amaze the audience. She was called the “Electric Angel.”
Liz Heineke’s “Radiant,” a work of creative nonfiction, is a history of Fuller’s fascination with Curie and her “discovery of a glowing blue element.” Fuller dreamed of using it to dazzle audiences with her “butterfly wings of radium” in a way no one had ever conceived. The many black-and-white photographs in “Radiant” are remarkable, even dazzling.
Curie did so much to advance the use X-rays. One huge development was her idea to take portable X-ray machines to those injured on the battlefield, instead of having the wounded bought to Paris to be X-rayed, which wasted valuable time. Often the soldiers died in transport. The military X-ray machines were very large, cumbersome generators as well. Curie worked to have mobile units efficiently used in regular cars, affixed to the running boards and hooked up the motor, which stood to make them more easy to use.
Curie’s daughter, Irene, became not only an expert in reading X-rays, she worked diligently in the war effort, which made Madame Curie particularly proud.
The horrors of war are well documented in “Radiant” as she describes the smells of gangrene (which usually resulted in having a leg amputated), the sounds of the consistent guns fighting, the frigid temperatures, the filth and lice, which were everywhere.
Half of the book, dealing with the dancer, describes the fascinating people Fuller met, in particular the celebrities in Paris such as Auguste Rodin, Anatole France, singer Emma Calve and many more. During her parties, for as many as 100 people, Fuller would wear a filmy dress and enchant her guests al fresco.
Here are two very different women leading totally different lives. Both boundary-breaking “stars” cast light on the worlds of science and dance, one through chemistry, the other through modern dance movement. They were fascinated with each other and both were geniuses in their own fields. Curie is of course a giant in the world of science; Fuller is not well known outside the world of dance.
Heinecke’s bibliography is impressive and indicates a tremendous amount of research.
Mims Cushing lives in Ponte Vedra Beach and has written three books.
Website of source
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