Who was Einstein's second wife

The invisible woman behind Einstein

Too smart for Albert? The life of Mileva Einstein

The world has been celebrating the 125th birthday of the genius who wrote the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein, for months. His first wife, who worked closely with him and was probably involved in drafting the theory, is still not recognized. She died alone in Zurich in 1948, and even her grave was leveled.

Albert Einstein is the undisputed superstar of the natural sciences, an idol, an icon, even a brand. He is considered a likable eccentric, a somewhat unworldly researcher whom not only physicists adore. His picture with his tongue sticking out is part of popular culture, women rave about him, even Marilyn Monroe said he was the man she would want to take with her to a desert island.

His first wife Mileva Einstein-Maric does not quite fit into the positive picture - perhaps that is why the world has forgotten her for such a long time, although she also supported him professionally as a scientist at his side.

Until the end of the 1980s, Einstein's biographies only regarded her as the Serbian farmer's daughter who, with her melancholy, made life hell for young Einstein. He hardly spoke about this chapter of his life himself. When he heard of her death, he said: "Only a life lived for others is worth living."

The natural scientist Desanka Trbuhovic Gjuric was the first to be interested in the life of Mileva Einstein-Maric, who was one of the first mathematics students in Europe and the woman behind the great man who created the theory of relativity (In the shadow of Albert Einstein). Since the 1990s, their existence has been referred to with more than a half-sentence, at least every now and then, after the debate arose at an Einstein congress in New Orleans in 1990 whether the young Einstein's revolutionary physics theories should basically be ascribed to both spouses ("The parents" or "the father" of the theory of relativity?).

Behind every great man there is a woman

Mileva Maric was born as the daughter of a wealthy family on an estate in Serbia, which at that time belonged to Hungary. Their parents promote their intelligence, they send them to grammar school and then to secondary school in Switzerland. At the end of the 19th century, women's studies were still rare; she went to Zurich, where women were admitted to the exams and registered there for medicine (women at universities), but quickly switched to the federal polytechnic school, which later became the ETH. From 1896 to 1901 she was the only woman to study mathematics and physics there. One of her fellow students is Albert Einstein (1879-1955), the two meet and fall in love. They write love letters to each other (I kiss you verbally on Sunday) and start an affair. They study together and of course discuss their science. In 1901 he wrote to her in a letter:

How proud and happy I will be when we both have successfully completed our work on the relative movement together. When I see other people like that, it really matters to me what is about you!

Out of sheer passion, he passed his diploma in 1900 with mediocre results and it just failed.

When she has to take the exam for the second time, she is unintentionally pregnant. An illegitimate child is an impossibility at this time that can cost the career of young academics who are still unemployed. Mileva Maric travels to Serbia to live with her parents and gives birth to a daughter there in January 1902, whom she names Lieserl. The child is probably mentally handicapped, and his future fate is still unclear. Either it dies after a scarlet fever infection in the second year of life, or it is given up for adoption. What is certain is that the father Albert never saw the child. She travels as often as she can to see her child, who lives with her parents for at least the first year, he stays in Zurich.

Against the family's wishes, Albert and Mileva married in 1903 in Bern, where he was employed as a "third-class technical expert" at the patent office. In the same year he says: "I need my wife. She solves all my math problems". He is writing his dissertation.

Luck, miracle year and bad luck

For Mileva, giving up a career is the clear price for her love and marriage. She now dedicates her ambition to her beloved husband. Of course, she supports him wherever she can, also takes care of the household, runs a small pension for students in the house to support Albert financially and gives birth to her first son, Hans Albert, in 1904. How she copes with the loss of her daughter is unknown.

1905 is Einstein's miracle year, he publishes a total of five articles that revolutionize natural science (100 years of Albert Einstein's miracle year). Mileva tells a friend:

We have completed an important job that will make my husband world famous.

In fact, the essays get a lot of attention. In 1909 Albert Einstein became professor in Zurich. He has affairs with other women - he has remained very open to women throughout his life. His second wife will later tolerate this, but Mileva becomes more and more melancholy. The second son Eduard was born in 1910, he was insane all his life.

The Einsteins move to Prague in 1911, he is the celebrated professor, she is totally unhappy. Before the family moved again in 1912, Albert's liaison with his cousin Elsa Löwenthal began. Mileva knew about it and tried to prevent the move to Berlin in 1914, where Albert was appointed by the Prussian Academy of Sciences, but Elsa also lived. Albert wrote clear conditions for the continuation of the marriage to his wife:

A. You make it happen
1. that my clothes and linen are kept in good order.
2. That I get the three meals properly served in the room.
3. that my bedroom and study are always kept in good order, especially that the desk is only available to me.

B. You renounce all personal relationships with me insofar as their maintenance is not absolutely necessary for social reasons.
In particular, you do without it
1. that I am sitting at home with you.
2. that I go out or travel with you.

C. You expressly undertake to observe the following points when dealing with me:
1. You can neither expect tenderness from me nor reproach me in any way.
2. You have to suspend a speech addressed to me immediately if I request it.
3. You have to leave my bedroom or study immediately without objection if I request it.

D. You undertake not, by words or actions, to belittle me in the eyes of my children.

Eureka: heart and brain, heaven and hell

After a few months, Mileva returns to Switzerland with her sons, her husband stays in Berlin.

Nobel Prize money for Mileva

During the First World War, the family is in Zurich, the father in Berlin, where he lives with Elsa. In 1916 he asked for a divorce by letter. A world is collapsing for Mileva, she has manifest health problems and financial difficulties. But she has no choice but to ultimately consent to the divorce, which was pronounced in 1919. She demands the Nobel Prize money from him because she is sure that he will receive this award. He agrees and she receives the sum after he actually receives the award in 1921.

But luck has left her. The treatment for her son Eduard, who has to live in an institution, devours the money. She makes a living by taking math and piano lessons. Her older son Hans Albert emigrated to the USA with his wife and children in the 1930s.

Mileva Einstein-Maric stays in Switzerland to look after her sick son. She lived very withdrawn and died in a hospital in Zurich in 1948. How much part she actually played in Einstein's scientific publications in the miracle year of 1905 remains hidden in the shadows of history. But that shouldn't be a reason to ignore their role completely.

Albert Einstein had been living in Princeton for a long time at this point. He married his second wife Elsa in 1919, although he did not think much of the institution of marriage, as he clearly put it:

Marriage is the unsuccessful attempt to make a coincidence into something permanent.

His second wife doesn't understand anything about physics and he thinks that's good, because "the first one did it!", As he makes clear. He doesn't think much of marital fidelity and Elsa, who represents the upper class at his side, accepts that without complaint. The "lonely genius" has one affair after the other, but he is not a real fan of women, in a letter to a friend he writes:

Compared to these women, each of us is a king, for he stands halfway on his own two feet without always waiting for something outside of him to cling to. But those always wait until someone comes to dispose of them as they see fit.

Nevertheless, the women remain loyal to him, they continue to adore him and after the death of his wife until his death in 1955, his step daughter Margot Löwenthal and the long-time secretary Helene Durkas constantly look after him. (Andrea Naica-Loebell)

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