Last week I visited Marie Curie's birth house in Warsaw. Talking about it with relatives, I learned a piece of gossip from a hundred years ago. My grandmother was a physics student at the Ecole Normale Superieure de Jeunes Filles (ENSJF), where a few years earlier she would have had classes with Marie Curie, but instead, was taught by her replacement Paul Langevin.
As the family story goes, Langevin was a terrible teacher. He was also sexist, and claimed that the only good thing about teaching women was that it did not require any preparation. But one day, when my grandmother arrived at the school, she found a group gathered in great excitement around one of her friends, who had bought the newspapers: "Look! They are talking about our teacher! Look at what they are saying about Langevin!" - the newspapers were saying that Langevin had an affair with (then widowed) Mme Curie. That much I knew from wikipedia, but the little additional bit that I did not know was that it was not only the journalists who spread the rumor but also Langevin's wife who made a big scandal about it - so perhaps there was some truth behind the tabloids' stories.
Had I not visited Curie's house, I would not have heard that anecdote. How many stories about the past are sleeping in our elderly relatives' memories, I wonder?