Mileva Einstein-Maric

(the author prefers to remain anonymous)


It is a truism to state that Albert Einstein was undoubtedly a genius and a breathtakingly original thinker. Nothing in this article can or should take away from the accomplishments of the most celebrated scientist of all time. But a basic sense of justice and fair play requires that credit must be given where credit is due. It is in that spirit that the world should know the name (and credit should be given) to an equally brilliant scientist, Mileva Maric, the first wife of Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein met Mileva Maric when he entered the elite Swiss Polytechnic school ("ETH") in Zurich. [An aside: Albert did not initially gain admittance to this elite school and much has been made by Einstein's critics that Einstein was only admitted on his second attempt. While it is true that Einstein did not initially pass the admittance test, this had nothing to do with his mathematical or scientific understanding. In fact, Einstein scored very well in math and science on the admission test (See the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Princeton University Press). Where he failed was in his French test; the Swiss were very picky about French, and although it seems Einstein's French essay was very good, it was not good enough to satisfy the high standards of the picky French professors. Further, Einstein was trying to gain admission to the Swiss Polytechnic at the tender age of 16, without even having first completed high school. The Swiss Polytechnic advised the young Einstein that they were impressed by his math and science scores but he should really finish high school first and then try to gain admission the next year.

Encouraged by kind words of the Swiss Polytechnic, Einstein went back to high school in Germany, got his high school diploma, and was easily admitted on his second attempt to enter the Swiss Polytechnic. See Abram Pais, Subtle is the Lordů- The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, Oxford University Press, 1982]. On entering the Swiss Polytechnic school in Zurich, the young 17 year old noticed the only woman in the class, Mileva Maric, a brilliant Serbian student. Maric remained the only woman studying physics at the Swiss Polytechnic the entire time Einstein was there. Maric was four years Einstein's senior. She was a Serb, an Eastern Orthodox Christian, short of stature, had a limp and was extremely bookish. In addition to taking the exact same course-work in college that Einstein took, Maric studied on her own for one semester in Germany under Phillipe Lenard, the Nobel Prize winning physicist who discovered the photo-electric effect (which was explained in one of the 1905 papers attributed to Einstein).

Soon the two physics students fell in love and began living together, sharing love and textbooks. The work they would do together would change the world of science and re-arrange the universe. Maric is finally beginning to be noticed among scholars. Her achievements were first chronicled by Desanka Trbuhovic-Gjuric in her book In the Shadow of Albert Einstein, which, unfortunately, has been published only in German. Because Trbuhovic-Gjuric relied on oral reports of friends of the Einsteins her documentation is not considered rigorous enough. Trbuhovic-Gjuric writes that Maric always considered herself as partner of Einstein, and when asked why she did not insist on more of the credit for their joint work, she replied, "We are one stone; Ein stein."

The Serbian scholar Dord Krstic has written about Maric's close working relationship in an Appendix to the book, Hans Albert Einstein: Reminiscences of his LIfe and our LIfe Together, written by Elizabeth Einstein, the wife of Einstein's son, Hans Albert Einstein.

Senta Toremel-Ploetz has written a noteworthy article on Maric, "Mileva Einstein Maric, the woman who did Einstein's mathematics" in Women's Studies International Forum, vol. 13, no. 5 (1990).

By far the most interesting and insightful writer on Maric is Dr. Evan Harris Walker, who literally has turned the Einstein image around, crediting Maric with having formulated the Special Theory of Relativity as well as other ideas now commonly attributed to Einstein. Many other popular writers have adopted the insights of Dr. Walker; it is his manuscript Ms. Einstein (1990) that remains the leading work so far on the collaboration between Einstein and Maric. Dr. Walker is hereby credited for the information and ideas contained in this article. It was he who first seriously pushed the idea of an Einstein/Maric collaboration. And what a collaboration it was! The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein prove to any open-minded person, that Maric did indeed collaborate on the authorship of Einstein's famous papers in 1905. Einstein even uses the word "collaboration". Just a sample quote from Albert to Mileva from their love letters:

"How happy and proud I will be when the two of us together will have brought our work on the relative motion to a victorious conclusion!"

Our work???

This is just one isolated quotation. One should read the entire Love Letters, published in the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein by the Princeton University Press and separately as The Love Letters; Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric edited by Jurgen Renn and Robert Schulmann and translated by Shawn Smith. There you will find that Albert shares all his physics ideas with her and is extremely interested in her opinion. There are literally dozens of examples. See also the copyrighted manuscript by Evan Harris Walker Ms. Einstein.

No two physicists ever had a closer relationship: Mileva and Albert ate together, went to school together, shared ideas together, shared textbooks together, slept together, raised children together and discussed physics together. The Love Letters prove incontrovertibly that they discussed in great detail the work of physicists and mathematicians like Lenard, Helmholtz, Hertz, Drude, Boltzmann, Kirchhoff, and Planck. In their leisure hours, Mileva often would play the piano accompanying Einstein's violin while they entertained friends, including Einstein's inner circle: Michele Besso, Paul Ehrenfest, Conrad Habicht, Marcel Grossmann, Maurice Slovine. This group eventually became known as "The Olympia Academy."

Senta Troemmel Ploetz, in her excellent paper, quotes Einstein as telling his friends that his wife did his math for him. When one realizes the highly mathematical aspect of the 1905 Special Relativity paper, which relies heavily on derivations of the Lorentz transformations, then one can see the importance of having a first-rate mathematician's help. The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein even have a photo-static copy of one of Albert's college notebooks, in which Mileva has gone through and corrected Albert's math! Yet the myth of the isolated Einstein working alone, who all by himself, without help from anyone, wrote four brilliant papers on physics in 1905, endures. These papers included the work on Special Relativity; the photo-electric effect; an explanation of Brownian motion; and the famed formula, E=mc2. All this is detailed in the Love Letters and in Dr. Walker's paper, Ms. Einstein.

Yet "Einstein Establishment" has been reluctant to recognize the important role Maric played. John Stachel, the first editor of the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, has recently moved away from previous statements that Maric was a mere "sounding board" for Einstein, and has grudgingly stated that she has played a "small but significant role" in Einstein's work.


But was her role really so small?

In addition to the many references to joint work and swapping of textbooks, Dr. Walker has found fascinating evidence that Mileva Maric may have actually put her name on the original manuscript of the Special Relativity. Naturally, the original manuscript for the Special Relativity paper is missing. It was lost during Einstein's lifetime. Yet, Abram Joffe, a summa cum laude Russian physics graduate of the ETH is quoted as having seen the original 1905 manuscript and said it was signed, "Einstein-Marity" (Marity being the Hungarianized version of Maric'; at that time Serbia was under the dominion of Austro-Hungarian empire). Joffe died in 1961. (see Ms. Einstein by Evan Harris Walker.)

It is interesting that Joffe would remember the name as "Einstein-Marity" since "Marity" was the Hungarianized version of Maric. Mileva Maric rarely wrote her name as "Marity" except on important formal documents, such as her wedding certificate. That Joffe would remember the name specifically as "Marity" lends credence to his having seen the original Special Relativity manuscript. It is extremely unlikely that Joffe could have made a mistake.

Moreover, when Albert admitted adultery and divorced Mileva in 1919, he promised that in the event he should win the Nobel Prize all the money-not part of the money but all the money-would go to Mileva. According to the Einstein biography, Subtle is the Lord, Einstein kept his promise. When he received the Nobel Prize money in 1922 (he was awarded the prize for the year 1921; the award was announced and he received the money in 1922) Albert did indeed give Mileva all the money from the Nobel Prize. Why all the money?

There are other strange aspects to Einstein's life. Einstein was extremely secretive about his first marriage. It was only in 1987, with the publication of the Love Letters between Albert and Mileva that we find out Einstein fathered a daughter, named Lieserl, the first child of Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric. Nobody really knows what happened to this child; there is a mention in one of the letters to her having scarlet fever and it is believed that the child was put up for adoption in Serbia. Albert never breathed a word about her publicly during his lifetime, which is quite strange.

The Love Letters also make clear that Mileva Maric was absolutely hated by Einstein's mother, Pauline, who protested to her son that Mileva was, "a book like you." Still, despite his mother's fierce objections, Einstein stubbornly went ahead and married her. It was during this marriage that Einstein is credited with producing the 1905 papers which made him famous.

After they married, Mileva bore Albert two more children, sons Hans Albert and Eduard. Eduard suffered psychological troubles throughout his life, and according to Dord Krstic was even seen by Sigmund Freud.

Maric seems never quite willing to take complete credit for the work she did. Much has been made of Maric never having graduated from the Swiss Polytechnic, implying that she could not have been the intellectual equal of Albert Einstein. This is simply not accurate.

Mileva faced the obvious invidious prejudice of being a woman. Remember, in 1900 women couldn't even vote! Even to be allowed admittance as a woman to the elite Swiss Polytechnic, she had to have been brilliant. Although her grades were comparable to Einstein's grades, Mileva ultimately did not pass her final examinations. It must be noted, however, that at the time she was taking these exams she was late in her pregnancy with Albert's second child (his son, Hans Albert) and also faced the prejudice of her teachers for being both a Slav and a woman. She was, indeed, the only student in Albert's class not to graduate, although she did receive a research position with Professor Weber, which later fell through. Of the students who did actually graduate, Einstein had the lowest grade point average (see The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 1, which lists the grades of all those who graduated; also see Dr. Evan Harris Walker, Ms. Einstein.)

Einstein rarely mentioned those who assisted him. Indeed, in all the famous 1905 papers that he published, only Michele Besso, his friend and sounding board, is mentioned. There is simply no other source material cited in any other of his 1905 papers.

We know from the Love Letters that he had a very close collaboration with Maric. Unfortunately, these letters are heavily edited, the omissions being mainly from Maric's letters. Why are Maric's letters so heavily edited? Why are there so many omissions? Will the editors of the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein publish or make available Maric's letters in their entirety? Some have felt that Maric's senior thesis at the Swiss Polytechnic might actually have dealt with Relativity theory but, according to correspondence I have had with Professor Bartocci of the University of Perugia, her thesis cannot be located in the Polytechnic's archives.

Einstein's marriage to Maric ended in acrimony. He began treating Maric, for whom he had originally professed such great love, cruelly toward the end of the marriage, even calling her "uncommonly ugly" (see Collected Papers). He admitted in a deposition during divorce proceedings (28 December 1918) that he had carried on an adulterous relationship with one of his cousins, whom he later married. During this second marriage, Einstein had numerous affairs, even including -apparently - an affair with a Russian spy! And again, Einstein never breathed a word about having fathered a daughter with Maric.

The full truth of Mileva Maric's role in the work now commonly attributed exclusively to Einstein will only become known when the complete, unedited letters of Mileva Maric are made available to scholars. It is also a fervent hope that the senior thesis of Maric might be found - or at least its subject might become known - because that thesis might actually have been about Relativity theory. Clearly, further research on her life and her physics work needs to be done.