But who remembers this brilliant scientist? While her husband, Albert Einstein is celebrated as perhaps the best physicist of the 20 th century, one question about his career remains: How much did his first wife contribute to his groundbreaking science? They depict a couple united by a shared passion for physics, music and for each other. So here is their story.
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The stipulations were as cold and precise as any of his mathematical equations. In July , Albert Einstein wrote to his first wife, Mileva Maric, the mother of his two sons, laying down a series of conditions under which he would agree to continue their marriage:. You will see to it 1 that my clothes and linen are kept in order, 2 that I am served three regular meals a day in my room.
You will renounce all personal relations with me, except when these are required to keep up social appearances. You must leave my bedroom or study at once without protesting when I ask you to.
On Nov. The correspondence, mainly in German, includes few new revelations. The basic facts of Einstein's first marriage -- his courtship of Mileva, whom some scholars have regarded as crucial in the development of his scientific theory, and his disenchantment with her -- have been known to biographers.
But the letters give a fuller, darker picture of the anguished ending of the marriage. And they provide an extraordinary glimpse into Einstein's emotional life. They reveal the domestic side of Einstein, a sometimes tender yet sometimes brutal husband of Mileva, and a devoted yet sometimes unthinking and cruel father to his sons, Hans Albert and Eduard. The manuscript, by Einstein and his collaborator, Michele Besso, is the second to go on sale this year.
Last spring, a finished version of Einstein's theory of relativity failed to reach the minimum required for sale at a Sotheby's auction in Manhattan. The Einstein-Besso manuscript, written in and , is one of just two known working manuscripts that show Einstein's thought processes as he was developing the general theory of relativity, his crowning glory.
Writing in neat, precise figures, and crossing out as he goes along, Einstein tries to calculate an anomaly in the orbit of Mercury around the Sun. It is, in effect, a peek over Einstein's shoulder as he wends his way through the mistakes and discoveries that would culminate, in November , in the general theory.
The letters, discovered in a bank vault in Berkeley, Calif. His granddaughter Evelyn Einstein, and great-grandson Paul Einstein, descendants of Hans Albert, have sued Paul's brother, Thomas Einstein, and Michael Ferguson, a lawyer, both of whom are former trustees of the Einstein Correspondence Trust, which owns the papers.
Evelyn and Paul are charging that Thomas and Mr. Ferguson failed to inform them of the trust's existence and held onto the letters rather than selling them and distributing the proceeds. Thomas Einstein, a physician in Los Angeles, has denied the accusations, saying he kept the correspondence with the hope of increasing its value. Both sides refused to discuss the case, citing a court order barring statements to the press.
A number of people close to the proceedings, however, say that a settlement is imminent. Some of the letters, from a happier period in Einstein's life with Mileva, were brought out in the book ''Albert Einstein-Mileva Maric: The Love Letters'' and as part of the continuing publication of Einstein's papers by Princeton University Press.
But most are unpublished. They show the trajectory of Einstein's relationship with Mileva, whom he met when both were students at the Zurich Polytechnic Institute in Mileva, an ethnic Serb, was four years older than Einstein and walked with a limp. She was the only woman studying physics at the institute. Over the opposition of his mother, Einstein fell in love with her. Their courtship is familiar to readers of Einstein's early love letters.
Mileva has been a shadowy figure of Einstein's early years, but the letters reveal her to be both lover and intellectual companion. She looked up scientific data for Einstein, suggested proofs, checked his calculations and copied notes and manuscripts.
Einstein's letters to her include his first, stumbling attempts at the theories that later made him famous. In , Mileva gave birth to a baby girl out of wedlock, Lieserl, whose existence was unknown until the correspondence was discovered. The fate of Lieserl is unknown. It is believed that she was given up for adoption.
Mileva and Einstein were married in , and Hans Albert and Eduard were born. During those hectic years of child rearing, Einstein formulated some of his most important theories. In , he published three fundamental papers, on photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, and then, a month later, on the special theory of relativity. In , he began an affair with his cousin, Elsa Einstein Lowenthal.
Mileva, Einstein wrote to Elsa in , is ''an unfriendly, humorless creature. I have my own bedroom and avoid being alone with her. The documents depict Einstein following the details of his children's lives, helping them long-distance with their geometry. In , Einstein sent Hans Albert a geometry problem, but somewhere along the way a playful censor wrote the solution in pencil below it.
There is also news of Einstein's scientific discoveries. In , Einstein wrote to Hans Albert, ''I have just completed the most splendid work of my life,'' probably the final, and correct, calculation of the anomaly in Mercury's orbit, one of the significant proofs of the general theory. And from the early 's to the end of his life, Einstein wrote to Hans Albert of his work on his unified field theory and his unsuccessful attempts to prove it.
In one letter in , Einstein says he and the physicist Leo Szilard had patented the invention of a refrigerator that uses layers of paper as insulation. The correspondence shows Hans Albert's growing estrangement from his father, and Einstein's concerns about Eduard's delicate health. In , Einstein again asked Mileva for a divorce, promising, ''If I win the Nobel prize, I will cede it completely to you. When he won the Nobel Prize in , he turned over the interest on the money to Mileva.
By Einstein's own later account, his marriage to Elsa became one of convenience as he pursued a number of love affairs with young women.
In the 's, Einstein and Mileva achieved a reconciliation of sorts. Their letters show a mutual concern about his own bad health, about Hans Albert's search for a job, and about Eduard, who was gradually descending into mental illness. By the early 's Einstein was a target of right-wing groups and anti-Semites, and in , he and Elsa settled for good in the United States, at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.
The letters end with Einstein giving career advice to Hans Albert, who became a hydraulics engineer and moved to the United States in Einstein expressed regret that his theories had become the basis for the development of nuclear weapons and becomes increasingly involved in efforts to halt their spread.
He continued his scientific work, but the great goal of his later years, the unified field theory, remained elusive. All along, Einstein had provided for Mileva financially, and for Eduard's institutionalization.
In his last letter to Mileva, in , Einstein wrote that his energy was declining. As Mileva's health deteriorated, too, Einstein instructed Hans Albert ''to write her a loving letter. If only I had known, he would never have come into this world. Einstein had not seen his son for over 30 years. In the end, Einstein saw domestic life as a kind of battleground.
By , he was in poor health; he could see his death ahead of him but was undaunted. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.
Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions. In July , Albert Einstein wrote to his first wife, Mileva Maric, the mother of his two sons, laying down a series of conditions under which he would agree to continue their marriage: ''A.
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The Forgotten Life of Einstein's First Wife
Online now, 13 volumes of papers unveil roughly 5, documents left behind by the great physicist. There's another volume with another 1, documents due in January, says Overbye—still just a scratch on the pile of some 80, documents attributed to Einstein. It's an incredibly important archive into the thinking of one of history's most important scientists. Ahead of his death, writes Virginia Hughes , Einstein took steps to secure his privacy:. And he knew it would be bull. It's hard to imagine Einstein would want the world pouring through his love letters.
Dark Side of Einstein Emerges in His Letters
Under the tyranny of our present productivity-fetishism, we measure the value of everything by the final product rather than by the richness of the process — its rewards, its stimulating challenges, the aliveness of presence with which we fill every moment of it. In contemporary culture, if a marriage ends in divorce — however many happy years it may have granted the couple, however many wonderful children it may have produced — we deem it a failed marriage. The twenty years between the time they met as first-year university students and the time of their final legal separation get compressed into one blunt word itself emptied of dimension: divorce. Einstein was immensely drawn to her. Reading their correspondence, rife with deep intellectual companionship, steadfast affection, and extraordinary tenderness, makes one suddenly aware that while Einstein may have stood on the shoulders of giants as he made his monumental scientific breakthroughs, he also stood on the wings of love. But now, even though you are understandably angry with me, you must at least give me credit for not adding to my offense by hiding behind feeble excuses, and for asking you simply and directly for forgiveness and — for an answer as soon as possible. In an letter to Mileva, penned while visiting his family over spring break, Einstein articulates his sense of having found his soulmate in her:.