Thank you for visiting Quantum Diaries, which from to hosted blogs by scientists from particle physics institutions around the world. To see new posts, visit the Interactions collaboration 's new blog, Particle People , which hops from country to country, highlighting a new blogger involved in particle physics research each month. But who remembers this brilliant scientist? While her husband, Albert Einstein is celebrated as perhaps the best physicist of the century, one question about his career remains: How much did his first wife contribute to his groundbreaking science?
While nobody has been able to credit her with any specific part of his work, their letters and numerous testimonies presented in the books dedicated to her provide substantial evidence on how they collaborated from the time they met in up to their separation in They depict a couple united by a shared passion for physics, music and for each other. So here is their story. Mileva attended high school the last year girls were admitted in Serbia. In , her father obtained the authorization of the Minister of Education to allow her to attend physics lectures reserved to boys.
She completed her high school in Zurich in and her family then moved to Novi Sad.
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She liked to get to the bottom of things, was perseverant and worked towards her goals. Albert Einstein was born in Ulm in Germany in and had one sister Maja. His father, Hermann, was an industrial. His mother, Pauline Koch came from a rich family. Albert was inquisitive, bohemian and rebel.
Being undisciplined, he hated the rigor of German schools so he too finished his high school in Switzerland and his family relocated to Milan. Albert and Mileva became inseparable, spending countless hours studying together. He attended only a few lectures, preferring to study at home. Mileva was methodical and organized. These letters provide a first-hand account on how they interacted at the time. I find the work we do together very good, healing and also easier.
By the end of their classes in , Mileva and Albert had similar grades 4.
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She excelled at experimental work while he did not. But at the oral exam, Professor Minkowski gave 11 out of 12 to the four male students but only 5 to Mileva. Only Albert got his degree. His mother was adamant.
Mileva was neither Jewish, nor German. The other three students all received assistant positions at the Institute, but Albert did not. He suspected that professor Weber was blocking him. Without a job, he refused to marry her. Nevertheless, both referred to this article in letters as their common article. Jung, one of the most influential physicists in Italy and gave him a copy of our article.
The decision to publish only under his name seems to have been taken jointly.
She suggests that Mileva probably wanted to help Albert make a name for himself, such that he could find a job and marry her. In his well-documented book 2 , he suggests that given the prevalent bias against women at the time, a publication co-signed with a woman might have carried less weight. We will never know. Unemployed, Albert would still not marry her. With this uncertain future, Mileva took her second and last attempt at the oral exam in July This time, Prof.
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Weber, whom Albert suspected of blocking his career, failed her. Forced to abandon her studies, she went back to Serbia, but came back briefly to Zurich to try to persuade Albert to marry her.
She gave birth to a girl named Liserl in January No one knows what happened to her. She was probably given to adoption. No birth or death certificates were ever found. He started work in June In October, before dying, his father granted him his permission to marry. Albert and Mileva married on 6 January Albert worked 8 hours a day, 6 days a week at the Patent Office while Mileva assumed the domestic tasks.
In the evenings, they worked together, sometimes late in the night. On 14 May , their son Hans-Albert was born. He also commented on 21 scientific papers for a fee and submitted his thesis on the dimensions of molecules. Much later, Albert told R. Shankland 6 that relativity had been his life for seven years and the photoelectric effect, for five years.
Exhausted, the couple made the first of three visits to Serbia where they met numerous relatives and friends, whose testimonies provide a wealth of information on how Albert and Mileva collaborated. The couple often sat in the garden to discuss physics. Harmony and mutual respect prevailed. It later appeared in German and French. In , the couple constructed with Conrad Habicht an ultra-sensitive voltmeter. Wir beide sind nur ein Stein. The first recognition came in Albert gave unpaid lectures in Bern, then was offered his first academic position in Zurich in Mileva was still assisting him.
I am very happy for his success, because he fully deserves it ; I only hope and wish that fame does not have a harmful effect on his humanity. Their second son, Eduard, was born on 28 July Up to , Albert still sent affectionate postcards to Mileva. They maintained a secret correspondence over two years. Elsa kept 21 of his letters, now in the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein. During this period, Albert held various faculty positions first in Prague, back in Zurich and finally in Berlin in to be closer to Elsa.
Mileva moved back to Zurich with her two sons on 29 July In , she agreed to divorce, with a clause stating that if Albert ever received the Nobel Prize, she would get the money. When she did, she bought two small apartment buildings and lived poorly from their income.
Her son, Eduard stayed frequently in a sanatorium. He later developed schizophrenia and was eventually internalised. Due to these medical expenses, Mileva struggled financially all her life and eventually lost both buildings. She survived by giving private lessons and on the alimony Albert sent, albeit irregularly.
Mileva strongly objected, stating the money was hers and considered revealing her contributions to his work. Have you ever considered, even just for a second, that nobody would ever pay attention to your says if the man you talked about had not accomplished something important. When someone is completely insignificant, there is nothing else to say to this person but to remain modest and silent. This is what I advise you to do. Mileva remained silent but her friend Milana Bota told a Serbian newspaper in that they should talk to Mileva to find out about the genesis of special relativity, since she was directly involved.
She has written to me in that way, and I let it be accepted that way, for otherwise the whole thing would be nonsense. She also wrote to her godparents explaining how she had always collaborated with Albert and how he had ruined her life, but asked them to destroy the letter. Their union was based on love and mutual respect, which allowed them together to produce such uncommon work. She was the first person to recognize his talent.
Without her, he would never have succeeded.
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She abandoned her own aspirations, happy to work with him and contribute to his success, feeling they were one unique entity. Once started, the process of signing their work under his unique name became impossible to reverse.
She probably agreed to it since her own happiness depended on his success. Why did Mileva remain silent?
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Being reserved and self-effaced, she did not seek honors or public attention. And as is always the case in close collaborations, the individual contributions are nearly impossible to disentangle. This article first appeared in Scientific American as an Opinion piece. Shankland, Conversation with Albert Einstein , Am. Mais qui se souvient de cette brillante physicienne?