When we hear the term Curie, we generally think of the radioactive experiments conducted by Marie Curie, and the discovery of one of the world’s most mysterious elements and the ultimate sacrifice one brilliant scientist made for science. But not unique to scientists at the time, her husband Pierre Curie was actually quite interested in spiritualism and the paranormal.
Curie is a name that would eventually become synonymous with dangerous radioactivity. But before the groundbreaking work of the Curies, it was seen as a name synonymous with love for the woman who would eventually adopt it for her own. And Pierre, according to his personal correspondence papers, was intensely interested in the paranormal.
In 1905 Curie wrote a letter to his associate Georges Gouy, in which he described the events of one of these paranormal experiments involving the medium Eusapia Paladino. Curie noted the strange incident and described it as “very interesting.” He described not only the phenomenon of seeing a departed spirit, but also talked of feeling hands from another world in the room.
Curie noted that the experiments were to his scientific scrutiny genuine paranormal phenomena unless the magician in question were of an extraordinary skillset as an illusionist. Of course at the time at the height of the spiritualist era there were indeed several illusionists who made a living selling visits from beyond to a public eager to explore the supernatural. And yet there are also several accounts of mediums who genuinely were able to manifest entities in their presence. Those of the latter variety are generally considered to be relatively rare, but still not unheard of. Is it possible that Pierre Curie could have been seeing the genuine article?
Regardless, the interest Curie showed in the paranormal is one of the indicators that showed a divide in how scientists of the era explored various phenomena and how the same phenomena are viewed today. In the 1800s the discovery of radiation of various types was a major boon to science and became the foundation for a number of inventions that would come afterward including the microwave, radar, radio, and several power sources (including nuclear power). And this interest in the paranormal was often seen as a specific type of physical phenomenon that could be traced and studied the same way one would study the expansion of gases when heat is applied or the way light reflects off of a convex surface. But unfortunately, despite the efforts of scientists like Curie, explanations of the nature behind paranormal activity are limited and don’t appear to follow the same laws as other forms of physics. Nonetheless, while his examination of the paranormal may not be his most famous work, it is certainly some of his most interesting.
Perhaps one day we will discover a force, like radiation, that is undetectable by any other means but which can conclusively be measured. At the moment parapsychologists measure the EMF radiation given off in haunted locations. If only we could discover why electromagnetic waves seemed so affected.