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Home Einsteins Wife: The Life of Mileva Maric Einstein
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Albert and Mileva's Wedding Photo
Early Years (1875 - 1902)
Married Life (1903- 1919)
Aftermath (1920 - 1955)
Epilogue (1956 - 1992)
Mileva's Story

Married Life (1903-1919)

Albert and Mileva were married at Bern City Hall on January 6, 1903. She was just 28. Einstein was almost 24.

Sometime around the date of their marriage, Lieserl contracted scarlet fever. What finally became of her is unknown. No record of Lieserl's birth or death survives. She may have died as a result of her illness, or she may have been put up for adoption.

When Mileva joined Albert in Bern, the child was no longer with her. The marriage began with Einstein working six days a week at the Patent Office, and spending his free time on physics. Mileva tried to cope with the loss of her daughter and the failure of her academic dreams. Just before their second anniversary, the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Marie and Pierre Curie, in what must surely have been, for Mileva, a stinging reminder of her own academic failure.

all that fame does not leave a lot of time for a wife But what can be done, one person gets the pearl and the other just gets the shell? Mileva to Helene Savic, ca. 1909

But the next year went well. Albert got a raise. The couple had a baby, Hans Albert. And 1905 was even better. It was Einstein's annus mirabilis, the miracle year. Albert published his four scientific papers that each marked an important breakthrough. Mileva told a Serbian friend, "we finished some important work that will make my husband world famous."

In 1909, Einstein resigned a post at the University of Bern, quit his job at the Patent Office, and became an associate professor in Zurich. He also corresponded with a former girlfriend. The Einsteins' marriage was showing strains. To restore peace, the Einsteins went on vacation. Their second son, Eduard, was born in 1910.

The next year, Albert moved his family to Prague where he had been appointed full professor at the Karl-Ferdinand University. For Mileva, the move would have been painful; as a Serb, she would have been particularly sensitive to the tensions between the German nationalist elite and the Czechs, with whom she identified. In 1912, the Einsteins returned to Zurich, a move that Mileva hoped would help respark her marriage. It did not. By then, Albert had a new math collaborator, Marcel Grossman. He also had a new lover, his cousin, Elsa Loewenthal. On his 34th birthday, he got a card from Elsa. That evening, Mileva was absent from a party.

The crisis came in spring 1914, when he accepted the position of a permanent member of the prestigious Prussian Academy of Sciences, as well as a full professorship at the University of Berlin. At first, Mileva resisted accompanying Albert; for one thing, Elsa lived in Berlin. Still, the Einsteins moved in April. Albert delivered a long list of rules to Mileva, with commands such as, "you must answer me at once when I speak to you." In July, the day before the outbreak of World War I, Mileva packed her bags and took the boys back to Zurich.

Mileva and her sons moved into a boardinghouse; Mileva hoped--though not very realistically--that Albert would return. Albert eventually moved in with Elsa and finished his General Theory of Relativity.

I treat my wife as an employee whom I cannot fire --Albert to Elsa, 1913

In 1916, he demanded a divorce. Mileva collapsed and was hospitalized. Albert thought, at first, that she was faking. In August, Helene Savic came to check on Mileva and found her friend bedridden. So Helene took the boys for a month, giving Mileva time to recover. Mileva was still ill in October. So, her sister, Zorka, came to care for the boys. But Zorka had a psychotic break during her stay in Zurich. She spent the next two years in a Swiss psychiatric clinic. See Note 3

When the war finally ended, Mileva agreed to a divorce. And Einstein agreed to sign over to Maric any future Nobel Prize money as part of the divorce settlement. He was now free to marry Elsa.

As 1919 wound to a close, observations of a solar eclipse proved the General Theory of Relativity. Newspapers ran banner headlines: "Men of Science More or Less Agog." Mileva was 44, divorced, and chronically ill. Hans Albert was 15 and bitter. Eduard was 9 and confused. Albert was 40, a world-famous figure and a newlywed--but he never again produced physics on a par with the work of 1905.

NEXT: The Aftermath >>

Note 3: The exact genesis and nature of Zorka's illness are unknown. Some historians believe it was a delayed reaction to the trauma of being raped by soldiers in Croatia, an event that would have occurred a couple of months before Zorka's breakdown.

Note: The contents of this page were modified on September 24, 2007. Read more in the Editor's Note.
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