Marie Curie’s Sex Scandal

scandal and Nobel Prize winner don’t usually go hand-in-hand, so that’s
why this story about physicist Marie Curie’s torrid love affair with a married
man was huge news back then. Why, it even led to a duel and a strange defense
from Albert Einstein:

Four years after Pierre Curie died in a 1906 carriage accident, Marie
became entrenched in a torrid love affair with one of his former students,
physicist Paul Langevin. The two were sharing a love nest in Paris when
Langevin’s wife grew suspicious and decided to investigate. She
hired a man to break into their pad and steal incriminating letters,
which were then leaked to the press.

French newspapers went after the story with gusto. They painted Curie
as a home-wrecker and a seductive Jew, even though she wasn’t
Jewish. The story played into the xenophobia of the time, and it fanned
public outrage. […]

Eager to defend Curie’s honor, Langevin challenged one of the
newspapers’ editors to a duel. The two men faced off against one
another, but no one fired a shot. Meanwhile, another man came to Curie’s
defense. Albert Einstein offered a bit of reasoning that seemed both
peculiar and offensive. He argued that Curie “has a sparkling
intelligence, but despite her passionate nature, she is not attractive
enough to represent a threat to anyone.”

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