Mileva Marić 1896
|Died||August 4, 1948 (aged 72)|
|Resting place||Friedhof Nordheim, Zürich, Switzerland|
|Other names||Mileva Marić-Einstein, |
|Alma mater||Eidgenössisches Polytechnikum (known today as the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule)|
(m. 1903; div. 1919)
|Children||"Lieserl" Einstein |
Hans Albert Einstein
Eduard "Tete" Einstein
|Parent(s)||Miloš Marić |
Mileva Marić (Serbian Cyrillic: Милева Марић; December 19, 1875 – August 4, 1948), sometimes called Mileva Marić-Einstein or Mileva Marić-Ajnštajn, was a Serbian physicist and mathematician and the first wife of Albert Einstein from 1903-19. She was the only woman among Einstein's fellow students at Zürich's Polytechnic and was the second woman to finish a full program of study at the Department of Mathematics and Physics. Marić and Einstein were collaborators and lovers and had a daughter Lieserl in 1902, whose fate is unknown. They later had two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard.
They separated in 1914, with Marić taking the boys and returning to Zurich from Berlin. They divorced in 1919; that year Einstein married again. When he received the Nobel Prize in 1921, he transferred the money to Marić, chiefly to support their sons; she had access to the interest. In 1930 at about age 20, their second son Eduard had a breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. With expenses mounting by the late 1930s for his institutional care, Marić sold two of the three houses she and Einstein had purchased. He made regular contributions to his sons' care, which he continued after emigrating to the United States with his second wife (Elsa, his first cousin).
On December 19, 1875, Mileva Marić was born into a wealthy family in Titel in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (today Serbia) as the eldest of three children of Miloš Marić (1846–1922) and Marija Ružić-Marić (1847–1935). Shortly after her birth, her father ended his military career and took a job at the court in Ruma and later in Zagreb.
She began her secondary education in 1886 at a high school for girls in Novi Sad, but changed the following year to a high school in Sremska Mitrovica. Beginning in 1890, Marić attended the Royal Serbian Grammar School in Šabac. In 1891 her father obtained special permission to enroll Marić as a private student at the all-male Royal Classical High School in Zagreb. Her mathematics teacher was Vladimir Varicak  She passed the entrance exam and entered the tenth grade in 1892. She won special permission to attend physics lectures in February 1894 and passed the final exams in September 1894. Her highest grades were in mathematics and physics, both "very good", one grade below the highest "excellent". That year she fell seriously ill and decided to move to Switzerland, where on November 14, she started at the "Girls High School" in Zurich. In 1896, Marić passed her Matura-Exam, and started studying medicine at the University of Zurich for one semester.
In the fall of 1896, Marić switched to the Zurich Polytechnic (later Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH)), having passed the mathematics entrance examination with an average grade of 4.25 (scale 1–6). She enrolled for the diploma course to teach physics and mathematics in secondary schools (section VIA) at the same time as Albert Einstein. She was the only woman in her group of six students, and the fifth woman to enter that section. She would have had to have been extraordinarily talented to overcome the restrictions on the admission of women. She and Einstein became close friends quite soon. In October Marić went to Heidelberg to study at Heidelberg University for the winter semester 1897/98, attending physics and mathematics lectures as an auditor. She rejoined the Zurich Polytechnic in April 1898, where her studies included the following courses: differential and integral calculus, descriptive and projective geometry, mechanics, theoretical physics, applied physics, experimental physics, and astronomy.
She sat for the intermediate diploma examinations in 1899, one year later than the other students in her group. Her grade average of 5.05 (scale 1–6) placed her fifth out of the six students taking the examinations that year. (Einstein had come top of the previous year's candidates with a grade average of 5.7) Marić's grade in physics was 5.5 (the same as Einstein). In 1900, she failed the final teaching diploma examinations with a grade average of 4.00, having obtained only grade 2.5 in the mathematics component (theory of functions). Einstein passed the exam in fourth place with a grade average of 4.91.
Marić's academic career was disrupted in 1901 when she became pregnant by Einstein. When three months pregnant, she resat the diploma examination, but failed for the second time without improving her grade. She discontinued work on her diploma dissertation that she had hoped to develop into a PhD thesis under the supervision of the physics professor Heinrich Weber.
She went to Novi Sad, where her daughter was born in 1902, probably in January. The girl was referred to in correspondence between the couple as Hansel before she was born and Lieserl after. At the age of one year Lieserl suffered from scarlet fever from which she retained permanent damage. Some sources say Lieserl died soon after in 1903, but others suggest she was put up for adoption in Serbia.
Debate over collaboration with Einstein
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The question whether (and if so, to what extent) Marić contributed to Einstein's early work, and to the Annus Mirabilis Papers in particular, is the subject of debate. Many professional historians of physics argue that she made no significant scientific contribution, while others suggest that she was a supportive companion in science and may have helped him materially in his research. The couple's first son, Hans Albert, said that when his mother married Einstein, she gave up her scientific ambitions.
Part of the case for Marić as a co-author of some of Einstein's early work, putatively culminating in the 1905 papers, is based on the following evidence: "The testimony of the well-known Russian physicist Abram Joffe, who gave the name of the author of the three Annus Mirabilis Papers as Einstein-Marity, erroneously attributing the addition of the name Marity, Marić's official name, to a non-existing Swiss custom."
In the paragraph in question, in which Joffe stated that "Einstein's" entrance into the arena of science in 1905 was "unforgettable", he described the author (singular) of the 1905 papers as "a bureaucrat at the Patent Office in Bern", i.e., Albert Einstein.
- Mileva told a Serbian friend, referring to 1905, that "we finished some important work that will make my husband world famous." Historians Highfield and Carter argue that this statement is "hometown folklore."
- John Stachel argues that letters in which Einstein referred to "our" theory and "our" work were written in their student days, at least four years before the 1905 papers. Stachel also suggests that some of the instances in which Einstein used "our" in relation to scientific work referred to their diploma dissertations, for which they had each chosen the same topic (experimental studies of heat conduction). Stachel argues that Einstein used "our" in general statements, while he invariably used "I" and "my" when he recounted "specific" ideas he was working on: "the letters to Marić show Einstein referring to 'his' studies, 'his' work on the electrodynamics of moving bodies over a dozen times... as compared to 'one' reference to 'our' work on the problem of relative motion." Stachel also suggests that in two cases where letters from Marić survive that directly respond to those from Einstein in which he had recounted his latest ideas, she gives no response at all. Her letters, in contrast to Einstein's, contain only personal matters, or comments related to her Polytechnic coursework. Stachel writes: "In her case we have no published papers, no letters with a serious scientific content, either to Einstein nor to anyone else; nor any objective evidence of her supposed creative talents. We do not even have hearsay accounts of conversations she had with anyone else that have a specific, scientific content, let alone claiming to report her ideas."
Thus, while some scholars have argued that there is not enough evidence to support the idea that Marić helped Einstein to develop his theories, others have argued that their letters suggest a collaboration between them, at least through 1901 before their children were born.
That Abram Fedorovich Joffe, a member of the Soviet academy of Sciences and an assistant to Röntgen from 1902 until 1906, saw the original manuscript of the relativity paper, Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Korper, and that this manuscript was signed “Einstein-Marity." And “Marity” is a Hungarian variant of the Serbian “Marić,” Mileva's maiden name. So, the claim goes, Mileva Marić Einstein's name was on the original manuscript, but was then left out of the published article, where Albert Einstein's name appears alone. That on March 27, 1901 Einstein wrote a letter to Marić that included the clause “… bringing our work on relative motion to a successful conclusion." Note the “our,” which implies that the work was done in collaboration.
In 1905, three articles appeared in the 'Annalen der Physik', which began three very important branches of 20th century physics. Those were the theory of Brownian motion, the photon theory of light, and the theory of relativity. The author of these articles – an unknown person at that time, was a bureaucrat at the Patent Office in Bern, Einstein-Marity (Marity the maiden name of his wife, which by Swiss custom is added to the husband's family name)
This is indeed what Einstein wrote in a letter to Marić. Let's look at the context. "Right now Michele [Besso] is staying in Trieste at his parents with his wife and child and only returns here [Milan] in about 10 days. You need have no fear that I will say a word to him or anyone else about you. You are and will remain a holy shrine to me into which no one may enter; I also know that of all people you love me most deeply and understand me best. I also assure you that no one here either dares to or wants to say anything bad about you. How happy and proud I will be when the two of us together will have brought our work on relative motion to a successful conclusion! When I look at other people, then I truly realize what you are!" (27 March 1901, Vol. 1, p. 282).
The significance of this reference on relative motion is seen in the beginning of Einstein's 1905 paper:
- 'Maxwell's electrodynamics, as usually understood at the present time, when applied to moving bodies, leads to asymmetries which do not appear to be inherent in the phenomena. Take, for example, the reciprocal electrodynamic action of a magnet and a conductor. The observable phenomenon here depends only on the relative motion of the conductor and the magnet, whereas the customary view draws a sharp distinction between the two cases in which either one or the other of these bodies is in motion.
In 1896, two students entered a Swiss university together. One was Mileva Marić, a 20-year-old Serbian; the other, Albert Einstein, a 17-year-old German. Both studied physics, taking some of the same courses and, in many of those, getting comparable course results. They studied together, fell in love, married. Einstein went on to found modern physics. Marić faced a barrage of personal and professional setbacks just as her career should have begun. Decades later, their letters, acquaintances’ memories and biographies were published. And ever since, scholars have been arguing about how much credit for Einstein's astounding contributions to physics should go to Marić.
Einstein's Wife, the latest book on this contested history, has three authors. Science historian David Cassidy presents an evidence-based history of Marić's life and her marriage to Einstein. Allen Esterson, a former lecturer in physics and mathematics, analyses claims made for her influence and contributions. And Ruth Lewin Sime, chemist and author of the 1996 Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics, provides historical context on the status of the vanishingly rare female scientists of that era. The hope seems to be that the reader will put together evidence, analysis and context, and at least gain an understanding of the argument over credit. (For full disclosure, I read an early draft of the book at Cassidy's request and was unsure what to think; I find the published book easier to assess.)
Marić dealt with prohibitions against women taking physics and maths courses by moving to countries and institutions in which the courses were open to women, and getting good marks. The Swiss Polytechnic Institute in Zurich (later, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, or ETH Zurich) was one such. Here, she and Einstein found they were equally unbrilliant at maths. In physics, their performances diverged, with her examination scores generally good, and his exceptional. Part of their bond seemed to be scientific: in Einstein's letters to her at the time, he writes repeatedly about ideas of relative motion and molecular forces — for which he later became famous — using the words “we” and “our”.
Over the next few years, Marić's career trajectory headed south: she did poorly in her exams, was denied a diploma, became pregnant while unmarried and in 1902 gave birth to a girl who either died or was adopted. She and Einstein finally married in 1903. Settling into the traditional housewifely role, she had another baby in 1904. As far as her science went, that was that. Then came Einstein's miracle year: his 1905 papers on atomic, quantum and relativity theory changed the agenda for physics. In 1919, the couple divorced after 16 years of marriage, having had a third child.
Indirect argument Marić neither published any research nor claimed credit for any of Einstein's; any work they did together would have been done privately. So all arguments for and against her participation in Einstein's miracles must be indirect. But lack of direct evidence has never stopped an argument. A 1969 biography of Marić by secondary-school science teacher Desanka Trbuhović-Gjurić claimed that her part in Einstein's success was “large and significant”. That verdict is based on hearsay from contemporaries, Marić's early academic success and Einstein's bequeathal of his 1921 Nobel prize money to her as part of the divorce settlement. Later, linguist Senta Troemel-Ploetz and Evan Harris Walker, a physicist and parapsychologist, interpreted letters that the pair wrote to each other and to others (along with interviews with their son Hans-Albert, in which he contradicted himself) as showing that Marić's ideas were central to Einstein's science. Over the years, this story has been repeated in a cottage industry of publications, most referring to the same few sources.
A woman's contributions going uncredited would, of course, hardly be surprising. Since the genesis of professional science in the nineteenth century, female scientists, with notable exceptions, have often received no credit for their work. Furthermore, the work of those who collaborated with male relatives has often been subsumed into their brother's, father's or husband's body of work — think of astronomer Caroline Herschel or chemist Marie-Anne Lavoisier. In spite of mighty efforts to rectify the situation, such as Wikipedia's WikiProject Women Scientists, it still exists.
Tenuous claims But the fact that Marić was unlikely to be credited doesn't mean that she contributed, and Esterson presents the counter-argument. He tracks down and analyses, exhaustively, each source's sources. He finds, for example, that Einstein's use of “we” and “our” couldn't have referred to a real collaboration for several reasons: Marić herself seems not to have referred to special relativity, didn't repeat the pronouns in her letters and probably didn't have the grounding to contribute to the subject. Esterson's narrative is detailed, but also repetitive and confusing, partly because he examines each reuse of particular sources. And because he invariably finds all advocates of the theory that Marić contributed to Einstein's work wrong, his argument seems contentious, even obsessive.
Credentialled historians including Gerald Holton have likewise dismissed the claims about Maric's contribution. But credentials seem hardly needed, because these claims are so tenuous. Those quoted by Esterson read like fan fiction, citing hearsay from relatives, over-interpreting facts or reporting conversations and events that no one but Marić and Einstein could have known. No evidence exists either way.
Marriage and family
In 1903, Marić and Einstein married in Bern, Switzerland, where Einstein had found a job at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property. In 1904 their first son, Hans Albert, was born. The Einsteins lived in Bern until 1909, when Einstein got a teaching position at the University of Zürich. In 1910, their second son Eduard was born. In 1911, they moved to Prague, where Einstein held a teaching position at the Charles University. A year later, they returned to Zurich, as Einstein had accepted a professorship at his alma mater.
Move to Berlin and separation
In July 1913, Max Planck and Walther Nernst asked Einstein to come to Berlin, which he agreed to, but the decision caused Marić distress. In August the Einsteins planned a walking holiday with their sons and Marie Curie and her two daughters. Marić was delayed temporarily due to Eduard being ill, but then joined the party. In September 1913, the Einsteins visited Marić's parents near Novi Sad, and on the day they were to leave for Vienna, Marić had her sons baptised as Orthodox Christians. After Vienna, Einstein visited relatives in Germany while Marić returned to Zurich. After Christmas, she traveled to Berlin to stay with Fritz Haber, who helped her look for accommodation for the Einsteins' impending move in April 1914. The Einsteins both left Zurich for Berlin in late March. On the way, Einstein visited an uncle in Antwerp and then Ehrenfest and Lorentz in Leiden, while Marić took a swimming holiday with the children in Locarno, arriving in Berlin in mid-April.
The marriage had been strained since 1912, in the spring of which Einstein became reacquainted with his cousin, Elsa. They began a regular correspondence. Marić, who had never wanted to go to Berlin, became increasingly unhappy in the city. In mid July 1914 after settling in Berlin, Einstein insisted on harsh terms if she were to remain with him. Although initially accepting the terms she reconsidered, and on 29 July 1914, the day after World War I started, she left Germany and took the boys back to Zürich, a separation that was to become permanent. Einstein made a legal commitment to send her an annual maintenance of 5600 Reichsmarks in quarterly instalments, just under half of his salary,, a commitment to which he largely adhered. After the required five years of separation, the couple divorced on February 14, 1919.
They had negotiated a settlement whereby the Nobel Prize money that Einstein anticipated he would soon receive was to be placed in trust for their two boys. Einstein would receive the prize for his work, and she would receive the money. Marić could draw on the interest, but had no authority over the capital without Einstein's permission. After Einstein married his cousin Elsa in June 1919, he returned to Zurich to talk to Marić about the children's future. During the visit, he took Hans Albert for a sail on Lake Constance and Eduard to Arosa for convalescence.
In 1922, Einstein received news that he had won the Nobel Prize in November. His divorce agreement promised her his Nobel Prize money. Under the terms of the agreement, the money was to be held in trust for their two boys, while she was able to draw on the interest. Based on newly released letters (sealed by Einstein's step-granddaughter, Margot Einstein, until 20 years after her death), Walter Isaacson reported that Marić eventually invested the Nobel Prize money in three apartment buildings in Zurich to produce income. Marić lived in one, a five-storey house at Huttenstrasse 62; the other two were investments.
In 1930, at around 20, Eduard had a breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. By the late 1930s the costs of his care at the University of Zürich's psychiatric clinic "Burghölzli" overwhelmed Marić. She sold two houses to raise funds for his care and maintenance. In 1939, Marić agreed to transfer ownership of the Huttenstrasse house where she was living to Einstein to prevent its loss, with Marić retaining power of attorney.
Mileva Marić died at age 72 on August 4, 1948, in Zürich. She was interred there at Nordheim-Cemetery. Eduard Einstein was institutionalized until his death in 1965.
In 2005, Marić was honoured in Zürich by the ETH and the Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. A memorial plaque was unveiled on her former residence in Zürich, the house Huttenstrasse 62, in her memory. In the same year a bust was placed in her high-school town, Sremska Mitrovica. Another bust is located on the campus of the University of Novi Sad. A high school in her birthplace of Titel is named after her. Sixty years after her death, a memorial plate was placed on the house of the former clinic in Zürich where she died. In June 2009 a memorial gravestone was dedicated to her at the Nordheim-Cemetery in Zürich where she rests.
Three years later, in 1998, Vida Ognjenović produced a drama, Mileva Ajnštajn, which was translated into English in 2002. Ognjenović later adapted the play into a libretto for the opera Mileva, composed by Aleksandra Vrebalov, which premiered in 2011 in the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad.
- In her novel The Other Einstein (2016), Marie Benedict gives a fictionalized account of the relationship between Mileva Marić and Albert Einstein.
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The letter dated March 27, 1901 from Einstein says in translation: "How happy and proud I will be, when we two together have victoriously led our work on relative motion to an end!"
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[...] a book written by Dragana Bukumirović, a journalist with Politika, entitled Mileva Marić-Ajnštajn[...]
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Mileva Marić.|
- Mileva Marić-Einstein profile, teslasociety.com; accessed February 3, 2017.
- Einstein's Wife. The Life of Mileva Marić-Einstein[dead link], pbs.org; accessed February 3, 2017.
- , The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein; accessed October 28, 2018.
- Albert-Mileva Correspondence: Original Letters, Shapell Manuscript Foundation; accessed February 3, 2017.
- Michael Getler: "Einstein's Wife: The Relative Motion of 'Facts'", The Ombudsman Column (pbs.org), December 15, 2006.
- The Einstein Controversy
Letter by Gerald Holton and Robert Schulmann, December 17, 2008.
- Robert Dünki & Anna Pia Maissen: «...damit das traurige Dasein unseres Sohnes etwas besser gesichert wird» Mileva und Albert Einsteins Sorgen um ihren Sohn Eduard (1910–1965). Die Familie Einstein und das Stadtarchiv Zürich In: Stadtarchiv Zürich. Jahresbericht 2007–08. (in German)
- Thomas Huonker: Diagnose: «moralisch defekt» Kastration, Sterilisation und «Rassenhygiene» im Dienst der Schweizer Sozialpolitik und Psychiatrie 1890–1970. «Er versank immer mehr in Apathie und Untätigkeit» Prominente als Patienten, Zürich 2003, p. 204ff. (in German)