Better Than CD: Eugénie Cotton (1881-1967)

Chirality. 2020 May;32(5):652-660. doi: 10.1002/chir.23215. Epub 2020 Mar 7.


Aimé Cotton is known for his invention of circular dichroism spectroscopy. In 1913, he married Eugénie Feytis, a scientist who studied physics with Marie Curie. Following the Second World War, Eugénie Cotton was determined to advance the rights and standing of women, sure in the belief that doing so was necessary not only because it was just but also because a world with women in the forefront would be more secure and less susceptible to the catastrophe worldwide military conflict. She was a cofounder of the Women's International Democratic Federation and served as its first president. In 1951, she was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize, and in 1961, the gold medal from the World Peace Council. The extraordinary life of Eugénie Cotton is reconstructed in a new biography by Loukia Efthymiou, Eugénie Cotton (1881-1967) (Éditions Universitaires Européennes, 2019) that is reviewed here. Among the contributions of Eugénie Cotton of particular interest to the Chirality readership is the biography she wrote of her husband, Aimé Cotton, l'optique et magneto-optique (Éditions Seghers, 1967), the most complete source of information on the founder of the science of circular dichroism. This biography is also discussed here, thereby building two reviews of books, one new and one old, one about Eugénie Cotton and one by her, into a single essay.

Keywords: Aimé Cotton; Eugénie Cotton; Loukia Efthymiou; Women's International Democratic Federation; circular dichroism; feminism; magnetometry; pacifism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.