This article by Stephan Roget tricked me! When I first read it, I was disappointed to find out that everybody’s favorite physicist was a product of his time and treated the women in his life poorly. That was until I read Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, an amazing biography of the German-born scientist. I’ll keep this article short.
This list to the left was for Einstein’s first wife Mileva Maric. It left a sour taste in my mouth after reading it. But I read into it and found that Einstein didn’t just casually hand her this list after the reception and expected reciprocation. No, this list was the result of an extremely strained marriage between two emotionally inarticulate people. The couple had moved to Berlin from Zurich for Einstein’s three new jobs, which added stress to their relationship. Maric was extremely depressed and growing increasingly paranoid and jealous of anybody close Einstein, including his own mother. This emotional tension and turmoil prompted Einstein to retreat into his development of his General Theory of Relativity. This positive feedback loop spiraled the marriage into shallow waters. By 1914, Einstein had a close friend deliver this list to Maric as a “cease-fire” in order to avoid divorce for the sake of their two young children whom Einstein very much wanted to maintain relationships with. Maric accepted the seemingly brutal list without proper context that would instead of a relationship of romance make their marriage one of a sort of friendly business contract. This was given the culture of the time that they sought to avoid separation. After not much time under these living conditions did they agree to divorce. Einstein gave half of his salary to Maric and the kids. She did not leave him because of his “misogynistic” list. Einstein left her for his first cousin, Elsa (Yeah, I agree it’s weird he was with his cousin, but it wasn’t back then given the time and culture) who he was romantically corresponding via letters with towards the end of their marriage.
Einstein stayed in Berlin and Maric returned to Zurich with their two children. Einstein’s separation from his children brought him great emotional distress.
But did Einstein purposefully neglect to give his first wife credit on his papers on relativity out of jealousy?
Short answer: No. While Mileva Maric was an impressive intellectual, she only aided Einstein on checking his math sometimes and providing emotional support as well as somebody who he articulated his ideas to which surely helped in his progress. But all of the originality and brilliance was of Einstein’s thinking. This is backed by letters written by Maric.
Thanks for reading.