Mother of the Theory of Relativity
Meryl Ann Butler
Mileva Maric was born in
Hungary on December 19, 1875. The few
who know her story, marvel at it.
She was born with a displaced hip that
would become a lifelong limp. But she
was a gifted child, displaying
brilliance in the arts and sciences, and
her wealthy parents supported her
intellectual growth with an outstanding
education. She was admitted to an
all-male high school, one of the first
girls in her country to be accorded that
privilege. Due to her handicap and plain
looks, she did not generate interest
from the boys, but that allowed her to
focus on her studies, and she was
awarded top grades in physics as well as
Passionate about physics, she planned a
career in a field that few women had
ever even considered, enrolling in a
prestigious polytechnic school, as the
only woman enrolled at the time, and the
5th woman in the school's history.
There she shone like a bright star, and
a student several years her junior
idolized her. Mileva seemed to him to be
a kind of goddess of physics, and he
worshipped the ground she stood on. She
saw in him an extraordinary potential,
and nurtured it.
The two became inseparable, studying the
works of renowned physicists and
philosophers as their relationship
deepened. Mileva was soaring with the
unbridled adulation of her young
admirer. He was intoxicated with his
muse. They were constant companions,
colleagues, and confidantes. In
affectionate letters during their times
apart, they endearingly addressed each
other as "Johnny" and "Dollie", and
wrote of science, philosophy and love.
When Dollie was accepted at the
University of Zurich as a Ph.D
candidate, Johnny followed her…or tried
to. His grades were insufficient to get
him into the doctoral program, but he
was accepted to study there. Then Dollie
received a coveted position as an
assistant to a well-known and respected
professor. Johnny was not much for
attending lectures, but he wanted
desperately to work in the lab with this
scientist. Dollie pleaded, but was
unable to convince the professor to
accept the rather ordinary student as an
Then an unexpected pregnancy changed the
course of the young couple's lives.
Johnny was unable to support them.
Pregnant, unmarried and stressed, Dollie
uncharacteristically failed her final
exams. She left her studies and they
struggled to find employment. Dollie's
parents thought her boyfriend was a
ne'er-do-well, unable to support
himself, let alone a wife and child.
Johnny's parents were appalled that
Dollie was handicapped, was not Jewish,
and most importantly, was far too
intellectual for a woman. Johnny
conveniently disappeared and Dollie went
home to her parents.
He never came to see his baby.
Distraught, disgraced and depressed, the
27-year old unwed mother reluctantly
gave her daughter up for adoption.
With the child out of the picture,
Johnny ventured back, and they
reconciled. A friend helped him procure
a simple job as a clerk, and they
married in 1903, despite their families'
protests. Their newlywed times were
idyllic. In their evenings together,
they nestled by the fire, and fueled
with the creativity of reignited love
they explored the intellectual ecstasies
of their innovative ideas, the very
activities that had brought them
together in the beginning.
In 1905, a paper with the theories they
had developed, and with one name -
Dollie's - on it, was completed. But by
the time the paper was published, her
name was replaced by her husband's.
Maybe she agreed to it, surmising
rightly for that day and age, that
something so radical, if authored by a
woman, would have been instantly
As time passed, Dollie became a busy
mother of two boys, making up as best as
she could for the neglect they received
from their father. The practicalities of
daily life chipped away the pedestal
that her husband had placed her on. And
it was no secret that Johnny was
straying from his family, spending time
with other women, eventually falling
madly in love with his cousin, and later
with her eldest daughter.
One evening when Johnny arrived at a
party alone, their friends, concerned,
asked about Dollie. Not satisfied with
Johnny's evasive answer, they checked on
her. They found Dollie at home crying,
her face bruised and swollen, but
refusing to explain what had happened.
Shortly after, Johnny relocated his
family to another country so that he
could be closer to his lover-cousin. A
listing of his many abuses of Dollie
during this time, written in his own
hand, remains in archives today.
As a result of Johnny's insistence and
relentless cruelty, Dollie finally
agreed to a divorce. But only on the
condition that any future prize monies
that her ex-husband might make based on
her theories, would be paid to her.
And that is why, when Albert Einstein
won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921, he
quietly forwarded the check to his
ex-wife, Mileva Maric, who used the
money in her continuing, lifelong
struggle to support herself and their
This article was first published on
OpEdNews.com, on Jan 6, 2006.
Mileva died on 8/4/48 at the age of 72.
Her obituary made no mention of her
ex-husband. She was not mentioned in
Einstein's biographies, and her role as
Einstein's first wife and scientific
collaborator was unknown to the public
Freida (Mileva and Albert's
daughter-in-law) wrote a book about
their lives that quoted from their love
letters. The fiercely protective
co-trustees of Albert's estate blocked
its publication in 1958. In 1985, the
Princeton Press initiated work on a
28-volume edition of The Collected
Papers of Albert Einstein. The editor
discovered Albert and Mileva's
granddaughter, who provided him with her
mother's manuscript and the help needed
to locate the love letters. Finally,
when the first volume was published in
1987, it included 51 of the Einsteins'
letters and Mileva was no longer
But even today, Mileva often gets no
mention in biographical accounts of her
"Johnny." Below are a few sites that
offer more information on Mileva Maric
aka Mileva Einstein-Marity.
The account given above is based on
the information in the Einsteins' love
letters and readily available dates and
historical accounts, woven together with
an understanding of human emotions.
I was first introduced to Mileva
Einstein through Jan Eliot's syndicated
comic strip Stone Soup, on 11/20/05.
Reprints are available at http://www.amureprints.com
Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author