Obsessive Genius: The Inner World of Marie Curie (Great Discoveries)

Great Discoveries

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W. W. Norton & Company
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The bestselling, "excellent…poignant—and scientifically lucid—portrait" (New York Times Book Review) of the remarkable Marie Curie.

Through family interviews, diaries, letters, and workbooks that had been sealed for over sixty years, Barbara Goldsmith reveals the Marie Curie behind the myth—an all-too-human woman struggling to balance a spectacular scientific career, a demanding family, the prejudice of society, and her own passionate nature. Obsessive Genius is a dazzling portrait of Curie, her amazing scientific success, and the price she paid for fame.

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About the author

Barbara Goldsmith (1931—2016), a journalist and philanthropist, was the author of Little Gloria...Happy at Last, Obsessive Genius, Johnson v. Johnson, The Straw Man, and Other Powers.

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Additional Information

Publisher
W. W. Norton & Company
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Published on
May 16, 2011
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9780393079760
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Science & Technology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Barbara Goldsmith
This is a story of money, glamour, and scandal (on the highest level); a story of American society and of European royalty; a story of family strife exploding into one of the most dramatic and publicized court battles of the century—the battle for a solemn ten-year-old child, “little Gloria” Vanderbilt, who in 1934 was the object of the epic custody suit between her mother, the beautiful and penniless Vanderbilt widow, and her aunt, the famous Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, whose $78 million could buy her anything she wanted. And what she wanted was “little Gloria.”
 
The leading characters:
 
Gloria Morgan, who was one of the fabled Morgan Twins (invented by society reporter “Cholly” Knickerbocker as the quintessential Café Society beauties) and who, as a shy, stammering eighteen-year-old, living on nothing a year, did what she was raised to do, becoming the wife of . . .

Reggie Vanderbilt, at forty-three a worn-out alcoholic who had managed to go through almost $25 million in fourteen years and who died only two years after his marriage to Gloria, leaving his beautiful young widow nothing but their baby, their baby’s untouchable trust fund, and the Vanderbilt name . . .
 
Gloria Morgan’s twin, Thelma, who, as Lady Furness, was for years the mistress of the Prince of Wales (until she introduced him to her “best friend” Wallis Simpson) . . .
 
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Reginald’s sister, a formidable Society woman, a sculptor and the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, a woman who conformed—on the surface—to everything expected of American royalty and yet lived a hidden second life as a passionate bohemian . . .
 
And the child—little Gloria herself—shunted out of her mother’s life, carted around Europe, depending for her existence on her neurotically overprotective nurse, Dodo, who never left her for a single day, and her mad Morgan grandmother, who insisted that her own daughter might murder the child for the Vanderbilt millions. Deserted, “dressed in rags,” neglected, she became an almost mythic incarnation of “the poor little rich girl.” This child, who was to grow up to become a world-famous fashion designer, her name—Gloria Vanderbilt—a household word.
 
We come to understand and care about this child as we observe, close up, the astonishing lives and intrigues surrounding her. We see her at the age of ten brought to the courthouse, rushed through mobs of spectators, reporters, photographers. We follow a courtroom drama of sensation after sensation, the judge ultimately banning both public and press, the final scandalous testimony reaching to the heart of the English royal family. We listen to the parade of witnesses—servants, millionaires, society celebrities, aristocrats, family retainers. We watch the judge himself—a classic Tammany pol—becoming another of the many victims of the case, reviled on all sides. And finally we see little Gloria pushed to choose between her mother and her aunt, making the decision that will affect her whole life—with nobody ever asking her the basic question, “Why are you afraid?”
 
For the first time, the thousands of pages of documents and sealed court testimony have been unearthed and explored. Hundreds of people have been interviewed. And a writer completely knowing about society and the period has used all this material to create a compelling narrative of vitality, resonance, and fascination. Combining her extraordinary abilities as an investigative reporter with the skills and sensitivity of a novelist, Barbara Goldsmith has given us a galvanizing story, a whole world of astonishing emotional and social circumstances, unforgettably revealed.
Barbara Goldsmith
With the extraordinary investigative acumen and sensitive narrative skills that informed her best-selling Little Gloria . . . Happy at Last, Barbara Goldsmith now gives us the most sensational case of a contested will in American history—weaving a hypnotic tale of vast wealth and moral corruption.
 
When J. Seward Johnson, the pharmaceutical heir, died in 1983 at the age of eighty-seven, his six children (each of whom was already in possession of an immense fortune) were outraged to learn that he had willed his entire $500-million estate to their stepmother Basia—a woman forty-two years Seward’s junior, a Polish refugee who had once worked as a chambermaid in his household. They came to believe that Basia had used undue influence to “enchant” their father, prying his fortune away from him and turning him against his own children. They wanted “justice.” The legal battle that followed spawned a seventeen-week-long trial, the involvement of 210 lawyers (some of whose behavior was legally and ethically questionable), $24 million in legal fees, and public disclosures of the often scandalous details of the lives of many of the parties involved, including attempted suicide, drug addiction, and accusations of a murder plot.
 
Going beyond the courtroom itself, Goldsmith delves into the family’s past and present, demonstrating that, from the start, the poisonous effects of overwhelming wealth were a tacit but powerfully felt subtext to the proceedings. From her insider’s position, she reveals the true Johnson legacy—one of profound emotional damage. In their own voices Seward’s children, his first wife, relatives, friends, employees, and Basia herself express their thoughts and feelings with a startling degree of frankness, revealing a past of incest, malignant neglect, and betrayal. Through this deepening of the story, Goldsmith has been able to elucidate the profoundly complex reasons why each of the Johnsons believed that what was most emphatically at stake was not financial remuneration but emotional reparation.
 
Throughout the four-month trial, Goldsmith (who researched the case for over a year and examined thousands of pages of documentation) was in constant attendance, and she tells the dramatic story of what occurred in spellbinding detail. We see the contesting parties, their innumerable lawyers, and the trial’s remarkable judge, Marie Lambert (“part Portia, part Tugboat Annie”), playing out their roles in a courtroom packed with press and spectators, and rife with animosity, mistrust, and uncontrolled emotions (which erupted into a near-riot and death threats against the judge). Goldsmith illuminates how and why, as the trial progressed, it was transmuted almost entirely into a battle among lawyers, about lawyers, and for lawyers. She provides a masterful and devastating indictment of American law and lawyers, seen here as an out-of-control juggernaut fueled by a seemingly inexhaustible supply of money.
 
Family drama, courtroom drama, explosive psychological drama, a trenchant and sometimes shocking portrayal of lawyers at work today—Johnson v. Johnson is a brilliant synthesis of the legal, the social, and the human aspects of a society in disarray.
Barbara Goldsmith
This is a story of money, glamour, and scandal (on the highest level); a story of American society and of European royalty; a story of family strife exploding into one of the most dramatic and publicized court battles of the century—the battle for a solemn ten-year-old child, “little Gloria” Vanderbilt, who in 1934 was the object of the epic custody suit between her mother, the beautiful and penniless Vanderbilt widow, and her aunt, the famous Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, whose $78 million could buy her anything she wanted. And what she wanted was “little Gloria.”
 
The leading characters:
 
Gloria Morgan, who was one of the fabled Morgan Twins (invented by society reporter “Cholly” Knickerbocker as the quintessential Café Society beauties) and who, as a shy, stammering eighteen-year-old, living on nothing a year, did what she was raised to do, becoming the wife of . . .

Reggie Vanderbilt, at forty-three a worn-out alcoholic who had managed to go through almost $25 million in fourteen years and who died only two years after his marriage to Gloria, leaving his beautiful young widow nothing but their baby, their baby’s untouchable trust fund, and the Vanderbilt name . . .
 
Gloria Morgan’s twin, Thelma, who, as Lady Furness, was for years the mistress of the Prince of Wales (until she introduced him to her “best friend” Wallis Simpson) . . .
 
Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Reginald’s sister, a formidable Society woman, a sculptor and the founder of the Whitney Museum of American Art, a woman who conformed—on the surface—to everything expected of American royalty and yet lived a hidden second life as a passionate bohemian . . .
 
And the child—little Gloria herself—shunted out of her mother’s life, carted around Europe, depending for her existence on her neurotically overprotective nurse, Dodo, who never left her for a single day, and her mad Morgan grandmother, who insisted that her own daughter might murder the child for the Vanderbilt millions. Deserted, “dressed in rags,” neglected, she became an almost mythic incarnation of “the poor little rich girl.” This child, who was to grow up to become a world-famous fashion designer, her name—Gloria Vanderbilt—a household word.
 
We come to understand and care about this child as we observe, close up, the astonishing lives and intrigues surrounding her. We see her at the age of ten brought to the courthouse, rushed through mobs of spectators, reporters, photographers. We follow a courtroom drama of sensation after sensation, the judge ultimately banning both public and press, the final scandalous testimony reaching to the heart of the English royal family. We listen to the parade of witnesses—servants, millionaires, society celebrities, aristocrats, family retainers. We watch the judge himself—a classic Tammany pol—becoming another of the many victims of the case, reviled on all sides. And finally we see little Gloria pushed to choose between her mother and her aunt, making the decision that will affect her whole life—with nobody ever asking her the basic question, “Why are you afraid?”
 
For the first time, the thousands of pages of documents and sealed court testimony have been unearthed and explored. Hundreds of people have been interviewed. And a writer completely knowing about society and the period has used all this material to create a compelling narrative of vitality, resonance, and fascination. Combining her extraordinary abilities as an investigative reporter with the skills and sensitivity of a novelist, Barbara Goldsmith has given us a galvanizing story, a whole world of astonishing emotional and social circumstances, unforgettably revealed.
Lucas Bergkamp
Similar to the United States (US) Natural Resource Damage (NRD) program, defined under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or "Superfund") and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), the European Union's (EU) Environmental Liability Directive (ELD)imposes liability for, and requires remediation of, significant damage to natural habitats and species protected at Community and national levels, surface and ground waters covered by the Water Framework Directive, and land.The ELD was first published in 2004 and has since been transposed into the national laws of all EU Member States. However there is little guidance available to authorities and industry in interpreting and applying the ELD and meeting its prevention and restoration objectives. This volume is the first to describe the EU's ELD and to examine the emerging issues and practices in its application. While there are differences between the US and EU regimes, some of the underlying concepts, approaches and definitions embedded in NRD are also mirrored in the text of the ELD. The book includes a comparison of similarities and differences as well as synergies in practice; hence, this book will be of interest to both US and European readers. The ELD imposes liability for significant damage to natural habitats and species protected at Community and national levels, surface and ground waters covered by the Water Framework Directive, and land. Prior to the ELD's adoption many Member States had programs in place for the restoration of soil and groundwater contamination, but none had a regime for addressing harm to unowned natural resources. This volume presents a comprehensive legal commentary on the legal issues arising under the ELD, as well as an overview of administrative, technical, and legal issues and practices in applying the ELD regimes to cases of actual or threatened environmental damage. In doing so, it discusses both substantive issues and important procedural and process-related issues. Several case studies are presented to illustrate the issues and practical solutions. In addition, emerging best practices relating to practical ELD application are identified and presented. Identifying and discussing a wide range of emerging administrative, technical, and economic practice issues arising under member state legislation transposing and implementing the ELD, this book will be a valuable resource for all those whose work is affected by the ELD.
Lucas Bergkamp
Similar to the United States (US) Natural Resource Damage (NRD) program, defined under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or "Superfund") and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA), the European Union's (EU) Environmental Liability Directive (ELD)imposes liability for, and requires remediation of, significant damage to natural habitats and species protected at Community and national levels, surface and ground waters covered by the Water Framework Directive, and land.The ELD was first published in 2004 and has since been transposed into the national laws of all EU Member States. However there is little guidance available to authorities and industry in interpreting and applying the ELD and meeting its prevention and restoration objectives. This volume is the first to describe the EU's ELD and to examine the emerging issues and practices in its application. While there are differences between the US and EU regimes, some of the underlying concepts, approaches and definitions embedded in NRD are also mirrored in the text of the ELD. The book includes a comparison of similarities and differences as well as synergies in practice; hence, this book will be of interest to both US and European readers. The ELD imposes liability for significant damage to natural habitats and species protected at Community and national levels, surface and ground waters covered by the Water Framework Directive, and land. Prior to the ELD's adoption many Member States had programs in place for the restoration of soil and groundwater contamination, but none had a regime for addressing harm to unowned natural resources. This volume presents a comprehensive legal commentary on the legal issues arising under the ELD, as well as an overview of administrative, technical, and legal issues and practices in applying the ELD regimes to cases of actual or threatened environmental damage. In doing so, it discusses both substantive issues and important procedural and process-related issues. Several case studies are presented to illustrate the issues and practical solutions. In addition, emerging best practices relating to practical ELD application are identified and presented. Identifying and discussing a wide range of emerging administrative, technical, and economic practice issues arising under member state legislation transposing and implementing the ELD, this book will be a valuable resource for all those whose work is affected by the ELD.
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