The Real Story of Mileva Einstein-Marić
Was Einstein's first wife his uncredited coauthor, unpaid assistant, or his unacknowledged helpmeet? The real “Mileva Story.”
Albert Einstein's first wife, Mileva Einstein-Marić, was forgotten for decades. When a trove of correspondence between them beginning in their student days was discovered in 1986, her story began to be told. Some of the tellers of the “Mileva Story” made startling claims: that she was a brilliant mathematician who surpassed her husband, and that she made uncredited contributions to his most celebrated papers in 1905, including his paper on special relativity. This book, based on extensive historical research, uncovers the real “Mileva Story.”
Mileva was one of the few women of her era to pursue higher education in science; she and Einstein were students together at the Zurich Polytechnic. Mileva's ambitions for a science career, however, suffered a series of setbacks—failed diploma examinations, a disagreement with her doctoral dissertation adviser, an out-of-wedlock pregnancy by Einstein. She and Einstein married in 1903 and had two sons, but the marriage failed. Was Mileva her husband's uncredited coauthor, unpaid assistant, or his essential helpmeet? It's tempting to believe that she was her husband's secret collaborator, but the authors of Einstein's Wife look at the actual evidence, and a chapter by Ruth Lewin Sime offers important historical context. The story they tell is that of a brave and determined young woman who struggled against a variety of obstacles at a time when science was not very welcoming to women.
Hardcover$29.95 T | £24.00 ISBN: 9780262039611 336 pp. | 5.375 in x 8 in 6 figures
What is made abundantly clear, however, is what it was like to live in the shadow of Albert Einstein. Careful and thorough research that includes everything from the couple's old school records to letters written between the two reveal what Marić actually did do and places her within the context of women's struggle to enter the world of science at the turn of the twentieth century. The book does reveal that success is not based in gender but in opportunity, encouragement, and education, and that denying such things to women is a sorry waste of gifts much needed by a troubled world.
Ultimately, the authors conclude, buying into myths about Mileva Einstein-Marić does her a further injustice by denying her a unique place in scientific history…Hers is 'the very human, real story of a fallible, yet brave and determined young woman who, for various reasons, was not able to fulfill her dreams for the career and marriage she had hoped for.' Given the barriers women in science still face, her story remains relevant.
Throughout history Albert Einstein's first wife, Mileva Marić, was practically written out of the great physicist's story. Later she was credited as a secret collaborator on his most famous theories. Scholar Esterson and science historian Cassidy aim to set the record straight in this compelling biography. They pore over school transcripts, letters and contemporary accounts to assemble a cohesive picture of Marić's life. She overcame bias against women in science to pursue a Ph.D. in physics—but ultimately gave up her career when she married Einstein. As his confidant and study partner during his university days, Marić undoubtedly did contribute to Einstein's development as a scientist. But the authors find no evidence that she was a co-inventor of relativity, as some have claimed. 'Tragically,' they write, 'she did not achieve her full potential as a scientist... nor did she realize her hopes and dreams in marriage and in life.'"
Somewhere under the noise and dust is the real person whom Cassidy's evidence shows: an intelligent woman who worked hard to get an intellectually demanding education and suffered deep personal blows on top of the deeper bruise of being the wrong gender at the turn of the wrong century. Our century needs to attend to her. The deck is still stacked against female scientists. A Mileva Marić coming of age in the twenty-first century would still face lack of credit — and it would be only one in a long list of barriers and biases.
What emerges instead is a portrait of a capable but frustrated young woman who tragically did not achieve her full potential as a scientist...This biography of Einstein's forgotten first wife instead offers a haunting indictment of Albert as a distant and ultimately disloyal companion: a quantum husband who was neither here nor there; a visionary who saw the starlight in the universe but not the darkness closer to home.
Evidence-based biographies such as Einstein's Wife are essential.
...the book represents an impressive, compassionate accomplishment.
The issue of the contributions made by Einstein's first wife to his theories has been ensnared in controversy and fraught with ideological agendas. In this deeply researched and scrupulously fair book, we get the true story of Mileva Marić, which is far more interesting and even inspiring than the myths.
Professor of History, Tulane University; author of Einstein: His Life and Universe
Einstein was, for his time, remarkably supportive of women scientists—Marie Curie, Emmy Noether, Lise Meitner, Marietta Blau—with, sadly, the exception of his first wife, Mileva Marić. This is her story, and theirs, told as truthfully as modern methods in history of science research can make it.
Virginia L. Trimble
Professor of Physics & Astronomy, University of California Irvine
This thoroughly researched volume constitutes a much needed corrective to the proliferation of urban myths about Mileva Einstein, her husband Albert Einstein, and their individual and joint paths through the Swiss educational system. Their accomplishments and failures, and the environment in which they rejoiced and struggled, are amply illustrated in the original documents presented here. The authors have succeeded in bringing our understanding of their work up to date, and have debunked past and recent tendentious or incorrect accounts.
Diana L. Kormos-Buchwald
Robert M. Abbey Professor of History, California Institute of Technology