Wow, talk about debunking a hero. I have always admired Albert Einstein—who hasn’t—but after reading The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict, I’ve taken a second look at the scientist most often credited with E=MC2.
The book is fiction, but it is based on the very real Albert Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Maric, a gifted Serbian mathematician and physicist. Einstein met Mileva Maric in 1897 while they were both students at the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, an elite school for the study of science and mathematics in Zurich. Mileva Maric was the only female student in the class.
As the story is told in The Other Einstein, Mileva unintentionally sacrifices her own ambitious dreams when she marries Albert. Thinking theirs would be a union of intellect as well as love, she aids him in his early studies, significantly contributing to the theory of relativity.
Albert Einstein uses her brain but not her name, giving her no credit on his famous reports that built his reputation and eventually earned him a Nobel Prize. He treats Mileva as a traditional early 1900s wife, relegating her to cook, housekeeper, and childcare.
And he is unfaithful to her as well, eventually causing their divorce when he consorts with his cousin Elsa Lowenthal, who eventually became the second Mrs. Einstein.
A most interesting read, but how much of this is true? Articles I found on the Internet acknowledge there has been debate as to Mileva Maric’s role in Einstein’s work, especially in the question of whether she co-authored his 1905 paper on special relativity.
But many of the sources I read go on to say there is no hard evidence that Mileva Maric was instrumental in her husband’s work. These critics say that letters Einstein wrote to Mileva speaking of “our work on relative motion” are just the babblings of a young man in love.
Who knows for sure the extent of scientific contribution by the other Einstein, Mileva Maric? No one, it seems. Still, The Other Einstein is an entertaining and thought-provoking read.