This letter is a love letter from Pierre Curie to his future wife Marie, in the summer following their first encounter. They would marry about a year later and become what is probably the most iconic couple in science history. Although society would often describe her as “the scientist wife of Mr. Curie”, Pierre recognised the abilities of Marie very early on, and supported them, abandoning his own line of research to follow hers. When the Nobel Prize for Physics was attributed in 1903 for the discovery of natural radioactivity, Pierre, upon hearing rumours that he would get the prize along with Henri Becquerel, lobbied to make sure Marie was honoured with him. After his accidental death in 1906, Madame Curie would continue their research, and go on to win another Nobel prize on her own in Chemistry in 1911. She remains to this day the only individual to ever receive two Nobel prizes in Science.
10th August 1894
Nothing could have made me happier than to get news from you. The prospect of remaining two months without hearing from you was extremely unpleasant, that is to say your little note was most welcome.
I hope you are filling up on fresh air, and will come back to us in October. As for me, I do not think I will travel, I stay in the countryside, and I am all day in front of my open window, or in the garden.
We promised each other (didn’t we?) to have for each other at least a great friendship. Let’s hope you do not change your mind! For there are no promises that hold forever, these are things that cannot be forced. It would be a beautiful thing though, in which I do not dare believe, that to spend our lives next to each other, hypnotised by our dreams: your patriotic dream, our humanitarian dream and our scientific dream.
Of all those dreams I believe the last one only to be legitimate. I mean by this that we are powerless to change the social state and, if that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t know what to do, and acting in a random way we would never be sure not to be doing more evil than good, only postponing some inevitable change.
On the contrary, in science, we can pretend to do something : the ground there is more solid and any discovery, however small, can be counted on.
See how everything is linked… It is agreed that we will be great friends but, if in one year you are to leave France, it will be really too platonic a friendship than that of two beings that won’t see each other. Wouldn’t it be better if you stayed with me? I know that subject irritates you and I don’t want to bring it up with you again – and I feel so unworthy of you, from every point of view.
I thought of asking your permission to meet you per chance in Fribourg. But you will be there for one day only, won’t you, and that day you belong with our friends the Kowalskis.
P.S: I would be quite happy if you would write to me and assure me you will come back in October. If you write to me in Sceaux, the mail reaches me faster: Pierre Curie, 13 rue des Sablons, in Sceaux (Seine).
Submitted by B. Peaudecerf