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Mileva Marić

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Mileva Marić
Милева Марић
Marić in 1896
Mileva Marić

(1875-12-19)19 December 1875
Died4 August 1948(1948-08-04) (aged 72)
Zürich, Switzerland
Resting placeFriedhof Nordheim, Zürich
Other names
  • Mileva Marić-Einstein
  • Mileva Marić-Ajnštajn
Alma mater
(m. 1903; div. 1919)

Mileva Marić (Serbian Cyrillic: Милева Марић, pronounced [milěːva mǎːritɕ]; 19 December 1875 – 4 August 1948), sometimes called Mileva Marić-Einstein (Милева Марић-Ајнштајн, Mileva Marić-Ajnštajn), was a Serbian physicist and mathematician. She showed intellectual aptitude from a young age and studied at Zürich Polytechnic in a highly male dominated field, after having studied medicine for one semester at Zürich University. Her studies included differential and integral calculus, descriptive and projective geometry, mechanics, theoretical physics, applied physics, experimental physics, and astronomy.[1] One of her study colleagues at university was Albert Einstein, whose early work Marić is suspected to have possibly contributed to, in particular to the Annus Mirabilis papers.

Marić married Einstein in 1903 and they had three children before they separated in 1914 and were divorced in 1919. In 1921 Mileva Marić received the Nobel Prize money her ex-husband was awarded as a part of their divorce agreement to support their sons; she had access to the interest. In 1930, their second son Eduard had a breakdown at about age 20 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.



On 19 December 1875, Mileva Marić was born into a wealthy family in Titel in Austria-Hungary (today Serbia) as the eldest of three children of Miloš Marić (1846–1922) and Marija Ružić-Marić (1847–1935).[2]

She began her secondary education in 1886 at a high school for girls in Novi Sad, but changed the following year to the Mitrovica Gymnasium in Sremska Mitrovica.[3] 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.[3] Her mathematics teacher was Vladimir Varićak.[4] 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".[5] That year she fell seriously ill and decided to move to Switzerland, where on 14 November, she started at the "Girls High School" in Zurich. In 1896, she passed her Matura-Exam, and started studying medicine at the University of Zurich for one semester.[3]

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).[1] 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. Marić 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,[3] where her studies included the following courses: differential and integral calculus, descriptive and projective geometry, mechanics, theoretical physics, applied physics, experimental physics, and astronomy.[1]

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.[1] Marić's grade in physics was 5.5 (the same as Einstein's). 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).[6]

Marić's academic career was disrupted in May 1901 on a short holiday in Italy 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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] Some sources say Lieserl died soon after in 1903,[10] but others suggest she was put up for adoption in Serbia.[11]

Center: the Einsteinhaus Kramgasse 49 in Bern. On the second floor: the flat where Albert and Mileva Einstein lived from 1903 to 1905

Debate over collaboration with Einstein

Albert and Mileva Einstein, 1912

The question whether (and if so, to what extent) Marić contributed to Albert Einstein's early work, and to the Annus Mirabilis Papers in particular, is a subject of debate. Many historians of physics argue that she made no significant scientific contribution,[12] while others suggest that she was a supportive companion in science and may have helped him materially in his research,[13][14] and there is also a possibility of them developing the scientific concepts together when they were still students.[15]

Debate over co-authorship


Debate over whether Marić was a co-author of some of Einstein's early work, putatively culminating in the 1905 papers, is based on a passage from Russian physicist Abram Joffe's personal memoirs:

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).

Proponents claim that Joffe was erroneously attributing the addition of the name Marity, Marić's official name, to a "non-existent" Swiss custom.[16] Others have argued that it is unlikely Joffe saw the papers before they were published, and also unlikely he would have remembered the exact name on the papers if he did.[17]

Mileva told a Serbian friend, referring to 1905, that "we finished some important work that will make my husband world famous."[18] Historians Highfield and Carter G. Woodson argue that this statement is "hometown folklore."[19]

Debate over collaboration


Some of the debate over whether Marić collaborated with Einstein is based on their letters:

  • 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).[20][21] 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."[22]
  • 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."[23]

Thus, while some scholars have argued that there is not enough evidence to support the idea that Marić helped Einstein to develop his theories,[24][25][26][21] others have argued that their letters suggest a collaboration between them, at least through 1901 before their children were born.[15]

Some of the debate over whether Marić collaborated with Einstein is based on their interactions:

  • Marić's brother and other relatives reported eyewitness accounts of Marić and Albert discussing physics together when they were married.[15]
  • The couple's first son, Hans Albert (born 1904), said that when his mother married Einstein in 1903, she gave up her scientific ambitions.[27] But he also said how his parents' "scientific collaboration continued into their marriage, and that he remembered seeing [them] work together in the evenings at the same table."[15][28]

Family and personal relationships


In 1901, Marić was pregnant with her and Einstein's first child. She managed to hide the pregnancy and travelled to her home town to give birth in order to avoid the scandal. Letters to Einstein have documented that their daughter was born in Novi Sad, in January 1902. No further information is available about what happened to the little girl.[29][30]

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. In the following years, Marić and her husband moved several times, because of his changing teaching positions. They lived in Bern until 1909, and moved to Zürich. In 1910, their second son Eduard was born. In 1911, they moved to Prague, where Einstein held a teaching position at Charles University. A year later, they returned to Zurich, as Einstein had accepted a professorship at his alma mater.

In July 1913, Marić was distressed because of her husbands relocation to Berlin.[31] In August, the family 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.[31] After Vienna, Marić returned to Zurich, while Einstein visited relatives in Germany. 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 couple both left Zurich for Berlin in late March. On the way, Marić took a swimming holiday with the children in Locarno, arriving in Berlin in mid-April.[31]

The marriage had been strained since 1912. Marić, who had never wanted to go to Berlin, became increasingly unhappy in the city. In mid-July 1914,[32] after settling in Berlin, her husband 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 Reichsmark in quarterly instalments, just under half of his salary,[33][34] a commitment to which he largely adhered.[35] After the required five years of separation, the couple divorced on 14 February 1919.[36]

They had negotiated a settlement[37] 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 her ex-husbands permission.[38][39]

In 1922, Marić received the Nobel Prize money that she was promised in her divorce agreement to Einstein. 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.[40] Based on newly released letters [sealed by Einstein's step-daughter (Elsa's daughter), 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.[41][42] Marić lived in one, a five-story house at Huttenstrasse 62; the other two were investments.

In 1930, at around 20, her son 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 the two houses to raise funds for his care and maintenance.[43] 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 suffered a severe stroke and died at age 72 on 4 August 1948, in Zürich. She was interred there at Nordheim-Cemetery. Eduard Einstein was institutionalized until his death in 1965.[44]


Memorial gravestone at the Nordheim Cemetery in Zürich
Bust on the campus of the University of Novi Sad

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.[45][46][47] 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.[48] 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.[49]

In 1995, Narodna knjiga in Belgrade published (in Serbian) Mileva Marić Ajnštajn by Dragana Bukumirović, a journalist with Politika.[50]

Three years later, in 1998, Vida Ognjenović produced a drama, Mileva Ajnštajn, which was translated into English in 2002.[51] 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.[52][53]

  • In her novel The Other Einstein (2016), Marie Benedict gives a fictionalized account of the relationship between Mileva Marić and Albert Einstein.[54]
  • In 2017, her life was depicted in the first season of the television series Genius, which focuses on Einstein's life. She was played by Samantha Colley and Sally Dexter.[55]
  • A fictionalized depiction of Mileva Marić (portrayed by Christina Jastrzembska) and her potential contributions to Einstein's work is depicted in the first episode of the second season of the time-travelling superhero television series, DC's Legends of Tomorrow.
  • In 2019, physicist and writer Gabriella Greison applied for the posthumous award of a degree to Mileva Maric at the ETH Zurich. After 4 months of discussions, the university denied the degree.[56]
  • Mileva Marić is a major character in Margaret Peterson Haddix's 2012 young-adult science-fiction novel Caught, part of "The Missing" series.
  • In 2022 novel Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, Mileva Marić is twice mentioned as an example of a pioneering woman scientist whose work was subsumed under that of her famous scientist husband.

See also



  1. ^ a b c d D. Trbuhuvić-Gjurić, Im Schatten Albert Einsteins, 1988, pp. 35, 43, 49, 60, 63
  2. ^ M. Popović (2003). In Albert's Shadow: The Life and Letters of Mileva Marić, Einstein's First Wife, p. xv
    "The Family Tree of Mileva Marić-Einstein"
  3. ^ a b c d Highfield, 1993, pp. 36–43.
  4. ^ Darko V: Mathematics Intelligencer Sep 2019
  5. ^ Esterson and Cassidy, 2019, pp. 10, 269
  6. ^ Asmodelle, Estelle (2015). "(PDF) The Collaboration of Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein". arXiv:1503.08020 [physics.hist-ph].
  7. ^ Stachel (1996), pp. 41, 52, n. 22
  8. ^ Highfield, 1993, p. 80
  9. ^ The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Volume 5 The Swiss Years: Correspondence, 1902–1914. Edited by Martin J. Klein, A. J. Kox, and Robert Schulmann.ISBN 9780691033228
  10. ^ Einstein, Albert and Marić, Mileva (1992) The Love Letters. Edited by Jürgen Renn & Robert Schulmann. Translated by Shawn Smith. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J. ISBN 0-691-08760-1
  11. ^ Singh, S (2005). Big Bang. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-00-715252-0.
  12. ^ Pais, A. (1994), pp. 1–29
    Holton, G. (1996), pp. 177–93
    Stachel, J. (2002), pp. 26–39, 55
    Martinez, A. (2005)
    Calaprice, A. & T. Lipscombe (2005), pp. 41–42
  13. ^ Maurer, M. (1996); Troemel-Ploetz, S. (1990)
    Walker, E.H. (1991)
  14. ^ Ruth H. Howes; Caroline L. Herzenberg (1999). Their Day in the Sun. Temple University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-1-56639-719-3.
  15. ^ a b c d Gagnon, Pauline (19 December 2016). "The Forgotten Life of Einstein's First Wife". Scientific American Blog Network. Archived from the original on 17 October 2020. Retrieved 17 October 2020.
  16. ^ Abram F. Joffe: Памяти Алъберта Эйнштейна, Успехи физических наук, т. 57 (2), стр. 187–192 (Pamyati Alberta Eynshtyna, Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, v. 57, pp. 187–92 (1955)
  17. ^ Stachel (2005), pp. lxv–lxxii Archived 11 November 2009 at the Wayback Machine; Martinez, A. (2005)
    pp. 51–52 Archived 11 August 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Mileva's Story" Archived 30 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Einstein's Wife, PBS.org; accessed 3 February 2017.
  19. ^ Highfield and Carter (1993), p. 110
  20. ^ Stachel (2002), p. 45.
  21. ^ a b Finkbeiner 2019.
  22. ^ Stachel (2002), p. 36;
    The letter dated 27 March 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!"
  23. ^ Stachel (2002), pp. 33–37
    Holton, G. (1996), pp. 181–93.
  24. ^ Holton (1996), pp. 177–93
  25. ^ Stachel (2002), pp. 26–39, 55
  26. ^ Martinez, A.A., Mileva Marić
  27. ^ G.J. Whitrow (ed.), Einstein: The Man and His Achievements, p. 19 (1967)
  28. ^ Krstić, Djordje (2004). Mileva & Albert Einstein: their love and scientific collaboration. Mayer, Janez, 1948–. Radovljica: Didakta. p. 7. ISBN 961-6530-08-9. OCLC 447458003.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  29. ^ "Die bessere Hälfte". Einsteinfoundation.de. Archived from the original on 21 January 2021. Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  30. ^ "Mileva MarićMileva Marić: Die (fast) vergessene Einstein". Heidelberg University. Archived from the original on 16 April 2021. Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  31. ^ a b c Highfield, 1993, pp. 154–166
  32. ^ Isaacson, Walter (2007). Einstein. New York NY: Simon & Schuster. pp. 185–187. ISBN 978-0-7394-8903-1.
  33. ^ (approximately 44000 Euros — 5600 times 7.9 — as per this extract)
  34. ^ Highfield, 1993, p. 172
    Isaacson, 2007, p. 186.
  35. ^ Fölsing (1997, pp. 420–421), Isaacson (2007, pp. 234–235), Highfield and Carter (1993, p. 186).
  36. ^ Highfield, 1993, p. 188.
  37. ^ "Einstein Works Out Details of His 1919 Divorce from Mileva Marić". Shapell Manuscript Collection. Shapell Manuscript Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  38. ^ Highfield and Carter, p. 187 ("180,000 Swiss Francs")
  39. ^ The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, Vol. 8, document 562.
  40. ^ Einstein Collected Papers, Vol. 8, Docs. pp. 449, 562.
  41. ^ Walter Isaacson, Time 168(3): 50–55, 17 July 2006.
  42. ^ "Einstein Writes About House Bought With Nobel Prize Money". Shapell Manuscript Collection. Shapell Manuscript Foundation. Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  43. ^ Thomas Huonker, Diagnose: «moralisch defekt» Kastration, Sterilisation und «Rassenhygiene» im Dienst der Schweizer Sozialpolitik und Psychiatrie 1890–1970 (2003) Archived 2 October 2016 at the Wayback Machine, Zürich; accessed 3 February 2017. (in German)
  44. ^ Marić, Mileva; Einstein-Marić, Mileva; Einstein-Maric, Mileva (2003). In Albert's Shadow: The Life and Letters of Mileva Marić, Einstein's First Wife. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-7856-5. Archived from the original on 4 May 2022. Retrieved 5 October 2020.
  45. ^ "Frauenehrungen" (in German). Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  46. ^ "Frauenehrungen der Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster" (PDF) (in German). Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
  47. ^ ETH und Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster, Zurich ehren Mileva Einstein-Marić „Mitentwicklerin der Relativitätstheorie" Archived 24 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Sechseläuten 2005. Laudatio: Katharina von Salis Archived 23 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 3 February 2017. (in German)
  48. ^ Tesla Memorial Society of New York Website: Mileva Marić-Einstein profile Archived 13 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine, teslasociety.com; accessed 3 February 2017.
  49. ^ Unveiling and consecration of memorial gravestone dedicated to Mileva Marić-Einstein Archived 2 February 2017 at the Wayback Machine, Republic of Serbia, Ministry for Diaspora, 14 June 2009.
  50. ^ Savić, Svenka (2002). "The Road to Mileva Marić-Einstein: Private Letters". Belgrade Women's Studies Journal. 1 (Anniversary Issue 1992/2002). Belgrade: Belgrade Women's Studies Center: 201–10. Archived from the original on 23 March 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2011. [...] a book written by Dragana Bukumirović, a journalist with Politika, entitled Mileva Marić-Ajnštajn[...]
  51. ^ Mrs. Einstein takes the stage Lincolnwood Review.
  52. ^ "Mileva". Serbian National Theatre. Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  53. ^ "Premijera opere "Mileva"" (in Serbian). blic.rs. 19 October 2011. Archived from the original on 10 May 2017. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  54. ^ "Fiction Book Review: The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict. Sourcebooks Landmark, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4926-3725-7". publishersweekly.com. Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  55. ^ Martinez, Albert (25 April 2017). "Einstein's Girlfriend on National Geographic". Sloan Science & Film. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  56. ^ Greison, Gabriella (November 2019). "Il politecnico di Zurigo nega a Mileva Maric la laurea postuma. "Ma Einstein è stato un pessimo marito"". Archived from the original on 4 May 2022. Retrieved 3 November 2019.