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  • Writer's pictureJack McDevitt

Blog #58

I recently finished Marie Benedict’s novel The Other Einstein, which delivered more surprises than anything else I’ve read.

The person referred to in the title is Mileva Maric, Einstein’s first wife. Mileva was a brilliant mathematician in an era, the last years of the 19th century, when women were expected to do the housework, take care of the kids, and stay out of the way. Getting an advanced education was, for a woman, almost unheard of. But Mileva did well.

The Other Einstein is a novel, not history. But Benedict makes it clear that the book was deeply researched, aided especially by letters between Einstein and Mileva. The argument is made that Mileva was the brain behind the relativity paper that earned Albert his Nobel Prize and his reputation. If it’s true, she got no credit. Whether or not she was a major factor remains in dispute.

Allen Esterson and David C. Cassidy published Einstein’s Wife:The Real Story of Mileva Einstein-Maric last year. They saw no solid evidence to support the possibility that Mileva was the source of the relativity theory.

Also surprising, and more definitive, Einstein was apparently not the husband sensible women would choose. Mileva became pregnant during her university years. Einstein showed no interest in her condition or, after Lieserl’s birth, in the child. Eventually they married. She retained her passion for science, but Einstein, who was riding high, showed no interest in her attempts to pursue a scientific career.

And he cheated on her. Eventually, the marriage failed.

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