The Untold Truth Of Albert Einstein’s First Wife
Albert Einstein is one of the most prominent figures in science. Throughout his career, he was supported and accompanied by his wife, Elsa Lowenthal, but not many people know that she was his second wife. Einstein’s first wife was Mileva Maric, who the genius met in school. Not many facts are known about Maric, but there is a debate on whether she should be credited for some of Einstein’s work.
Mileva Maric was born in Serbia in 1875 to an affluent family. She showed promise at a very young age and was even granted special permission to attend an institution that only accepted boys. Maric excelled in mathematics and physics, and she graduated at the top of her class. She then went to Switzerland to pursue further studies in medicine, but she changed her mind and instead enrolled in Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH) to get a diploma to be able to teach physics and mathematics (via Scientific Women). Getting into the school was a feat in itself, as she was only the sixth woman to study there and was the only woman in her class. It was there where she met fellow student Albert Einstein.
Mileva Maric's education
It was in 1896 when Mileva Maric was 20 years old when she entered ETH. She shared a few classes with 17-year-old Albert Einstein, and they developed a relationship. Although she was able to pursue her studies, it was a difficult time as back then, women weren’t afforded the same privileges as men. Maric and Einstein shared a theoretical physics class, and they spent plenty of time studying together. The type of relationship they had was revealed through some letters that Einstein sent to Maric when they were apart during school breaks. In one, Einstein wrote, “When I read Helmholtz for the first time, it seemed so odd that you were not at my side and today, this is not getting better. I find the work we do together very good, healing and also easier,” as reported by Scientific American.
Near the end of their studies in 1900, Maric and Einstein both had excellent marks, but Maric had an advantage over Einstein when it came to physics. She achieved a high grade of 5, while Einstein was given a 1. However, when it came to the oral test, all four male students in the class were graded an 11 out of 12, while Maric was given a 5. While Einstein received his diploma, Maric failed her examinations, and her dream of teaching physics was crushed. According to MIT Press, it also didn’t help that she had arguments with her doctoral dissertation mentor, and by 1901, she became pregnant with her first child with Einstein.
Albert Einstein's parents didn't like Mileva Maric
Albert Einstein’s parents were outspoken about their opinion on their son’s relationship with Mileva Maric. According to Scientific American, Einstein’s mother said that Maric was too smart, and she also didn’t like the fact that she wasn’t German. In addition, the three-year age difference was a big deal to Einstein’s mother, who told his son, “By the time you’re 30, she’ll already be an old hag!” Einstein’s father, on the other hand, persuaded his son to defer marrying Maric until after he found a job, even if she was carrying his child.
Maric was pregnant when she took her final exam for the second time, but she failed again. She was wrecked by the outcome and decided to go back home to her parents, who were disappointed about her pregnancy and her failure to finish her studies. Her father was also opposed to the idea of her marriage to Einstein, per Dummies. Although apart, though, Einstein and Maric continued their relationship and often corresponded through letters wherein Einstein often praised Maric’s intellect. “How happy I am to have found in you an equal creature, one who is equally strong and independent as I am,” he wrote in a letter to her (via Fem Bio).
Mileva Maric raised her children alone
Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein’s first child — a baby girl named Lieserl — was born in 1902. However, there is little known about what happened to her. According to Scientific Women, the baby may have died of an illness or may have been put up for adoption. In 1903, Maric and Einstein finally married in a civil ceremony. In the years following, the couple had two more children — Hans Albert and Eduard. Their relationship, however, was far from perfect. Einstein spent most of his time working, while Maric took care of the household. Einstein’s work led him to different places, and they eventually divorced in 1919. Prior to that, they had been living apart for five years, and Einstein had already developed a romantic relationship with Elsa Lowenthal — his cousin who would eventually be his second wife.
The divorce left Maric devastated, but she worked hard to provide for her children. She resorted to private tutoring of math and music to make ends meet, and when it wasn’t enough, she would borrow money from friends (via Women You Should Know). When Einstein won the Nobel Prize, Maric was given the prize money, which she used to purchase homes. However, the money eventually ran out as she had to take special care of her youngest child, Eduard, who was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and was in and out of hospitals, as reported by Scientific American.
Mileva Maric's alleged contributions to Einstein's work
There is no doubt that Mileva Maric was an intelligent woman, which may be one of the reasons why Einstein fell in love with her. It was during their time together when Einstein developed the theory of relativity, and there is some controversy on whether his wife had a big role in his work. In one meeting with fellow intellectuals, Einstein allegedly said, “I need my wife. She solves for me all my mathematical problems” (via Scientific American). In 1905, he also said, “For everything I achieved in my life, I must thank Mileva. She is my genius inspirer, my protector against the hardships of life and Science. Without her, my work would never have been started nor finished,” as reported by Scientific Women.
There are also letters between the couple wherein Einstein wrote “we” and “ours” when he discussed his theories, leading many to believe that Einstein’s works were a joint effort between the two. However, Maric was never credited for anything. In one project, the couple worked on a voltmeter experiment with Conrad Habicht, but the patent was only under Einstein and Habicht’s names. When asked about it, she said she and Einstein were considered one. Maric also frequently spoke to her family about collaborations with her husband, and even their eldest son witnessed his parents working together at night using the same table. Furthermore, the original manuscript of the theory of relativity had the signatures of both Einstein and Maric.
Mileva Maric's final years
Although Mileva Maric and Albert Einstein had a difficult marriage, the two managed to be civil toward each other after their divorce. They wrote to each other about their children, and Einstein would sometimes visit Maric. Einstein also provided financial help to his ex-wife and aided in his younger son’s medical bills. Maric spent the rest of her life alone in Zurich. Her eldest son, Hans Albert, married in 1927 and emigrated to the United States with his own family in 1938. Eduard, on the other hand, spent the rest of his life institutionalized in Switzerland where he died in 1965, as reported by ATI.
Maric spent her later years worrying about the fate of Eduard. She spent her final years alone, and she died in 1948 at 72 years old. It was decades later when Maric was honored by the school she attended with Einstein, as well as some Serbian schools that erected memorials of the intelligent woman who was unable to reach her dreams of teaching physics, but provided the love and support to her children and her husband (via Discov Her).
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