Mileva Marić

Dec 18, 1875 - Aug 3, 1948(73)

Unfulfilled dreams

About the life of a promising mathematician and Albert Einstein's first wife.

Mileva Marić was born in 1875 in Titel. She came from a wealthy family of Serbian origin. She was a very gifted child and because of that they allowed her to attend school, which was unusual in those days.

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In 1886, she started the girls' gymnasium in Novi Sad, and in 1888 she transferred to the gymnasium in Sremska Mitrovica. There she graduated as the best in her class in mathematics and physics. From 1890, she attended the Royal Serbian School in Šabac. When she moved to Zagreb, her family managed to obtain a special permit for her, and Mileva was given the opportunity to study in a school that was normally only attended by boys.

Based on excellent grades and praise from teachers, she continued her education in Switzerland. In the summer of 1896, she enrolled in medical studies at the University of Zurich, and soon transferred to the State Polytechnic School, to study mathematics and physics.

She was the fifth woman in history to study there, and she was also the only woman in the year. Mileva excelled in mathematics and physics.

During her student days, she met a brilliant young student, Albert Einstein, with whom, against his parents' opposition, she began a love affair. During the summer holidays, they exchanged letters in which Einstein expressed his admiration for Mileva. He wrote about her: "She is a creature equal to myself and as independent and strong as I am." But the young couple soon encountered problems. Mileva got pregnant unplanned.

Since they were not yet married, it was considered a scandal. Mileva's parents hid Mileva on an estate in Vojvodina, where she gave birth to a little girl, Lieserl. A year after the birth of her child, she returned to Switzerland to be with Einstein.

The girl died not long after, and Mileva failed to graduate from university. The young couple married on January 6, 1903, in Bern, Switzerland, in a simple ceremony at the town hall. After a long period of sadness and unhappiness, it seemed as if luck had finally smiled on them. The couple soon had two more children, sons Hans and Eduardo. But the real problem has just begun.

Mileva took care of the children at home. Pregnancy prevented her from graduating, so Mileva could not continue her career in science. Einstein, on the other hand, spent his days working in the patent office and traveling to various scientific conferences. Soon the young woman was overtaken by depression due to the death of her first child.

At that time, Einstein connected with his cousin Elsa Löwenthal. He started an intimate correspondence with her, while he became cold towards Mileva. During the last few years of their married life, he sent her unpleasant letters. In them, he set discriminatory conditions for her, wrote that she should neither contact him nor speak to him, but also that she was obliged to maintain his linen and rooms.

In 1916, he asked for a divorce so that he could marry Elsa. Mileva agreed with the agreement that, in the event that Albert wins the Nobel Prize, she will receive part of the money. Namely, Mileva was extremely gifted in mathematics and a very methodical scientist, and while they were still on good terms, she often helped him solve problems and write documentation. Then, in the letters that the two young people exchanged, Albert would describe the new theories as "ours", which led many to believe that his works were their joint effort. Even today, Mileva's degree of merit is the subject of many polemics.

Namely, some scientists claim that the fact that during the miraculous year of 1905 Einstein was able to complete four important papers that built modern physics (papers on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion and the theory of relativity) indicates that at that time he must have the help of his talented wife. Others disagree with the fact that Mileva had an influence on Einstein's scientific work, but still point out the fact that her intense concern for the physicist's health and well-being indirectly enabled his scientific discoveries.

Be that as it may, Mileva's life became increasingly difficult over the years. Her and Albert's younger son fell ill with schizophrenia, and the once promising Mileva, in order to make ends meet, ran a boarding house and gave instructions. Towards the end of her life, Albert and she maintained a civil relationship, and he sometimes even visited her.

Intelligent Mileva could not develop her full potential due to social frameworks and other unfortunate circumstances. However, the Republic of Serbia honored her by naming several schools after her.

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