Did Einstein steal his theory of relativity from his first wife?

Allen Esterson and David C. Cassidy have published a new book: Einstein’s Wife. The Real Story of Mileva Einstein-Marić.

The last part of the book considers the question: Did Einstein’s first wife coauthor his 1905 path-breaking papers. In his book, the author Allen Esterson failed to mention my work on the subject probably because in 2013 I corrected his draft on Mileva Marić and Einstein and perhaps he didn’t like my comments…

Anyway, in 2012 I wrote the following paper:

Did Mileva Marić assist Einstein in writing his 1905 path breaking papers?

Shortly afterwards, the MIT Technology Review wrote a piece about my paper:

Did Einstein’s First Wife Secretly Coauthor His 1905 Relativity Paper?

I didn’t quite like the style and I have noticed that the paper required some corrections. In 2015 and 2017 I expanded on the aforementioned topic in my book:

Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity (2nd Edition), Chapter E.

As to Allen Esterson’s book. His chapter begins with Desanka Trbuhovic-Gjuric’s biography of Mileva Marić: Im Schatten Albert Einsteins, das tragische Leben der Mileva Einstein-Marić (In the Shadow of Albert Einstein: The Tragic Life of Mileva Marić).

MIlevva

Esterson writes:

Mileva2

Mileva3

Esterson tries to refute one item after the other. While refuting  Trbuhovic-Gjuric’s thesis, Esterson tells in much detail how Marić was a good student and almost graduated the Polytechnic, she travelled to her parents’ home in Novi Sad to secretly give birth to a daughter, Liesel, in early 1902. Liesel was born before the couple’s (Einstein-Marić) marriage, and so forth.

Don Howard has written that Mileva Marić was a remarkably talented and ambitious young scientist, someone who expended tremendous personal energy to create for herself opportunities that normally would have been foreclosed to women at that time. Marić’s love affair with Einstein and her pregnancy with their illegitimate daughter Lieserl simply put an end to all of these dreams that had fired her soul. She was pregnant and scared about what the future would bring and she failed her final exams at the Zurich Polytechnic. The cultural norms of the era and the unhappy accident of the pregnancy and birth of Lieserl destroyed Mileva’s intellectual dreams and ambitions. However, Mileva was a very smart sounding board for Einstein’s ideas, in much the same way that Michele Besso, was a sounding board.

In his book, Esterson repeats John Stachel’s theme that Marić did not contribute to Einstein’s relativity paper of 1905 and Stachel’s altercations with feminists authors and with Evan Harris Walker (see, for instance, Esterson’s book, page 282 where he writes:

Picture1

Esterson also analyses Peter Michelmore’s biography, Einstein, Profile of the Man and writes on page 107:

Michel

Yes, Michelmore mentioned the couple Einstein and Marić, writing that “Mileva checked the [relativity] article again and again, then mailed it. ‘It’s a very beautiful piece of work’, she told her husband” (Michelmore’s book 1962, page 46).

Michelmore interviewed Hans Albert Einstein. Michelmore wrote that Einstein’s son  “answered all my questions, and waited while I wrote down the answers. He did not ask to check my notes, or edit my book. He trusted me”. Thus, if Einstein’s son did not check Michelmore’s notes and the latter did not base his book on archival material, then Michelmore’s biography is not a primary source and we can consider it as almost pure imagination. See my book, Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity (2nd Edition) for further analysis.

While refuting Trbuhovic-Gjuric’s and Michelmore’s theses Esterson bases himself on the Collected Papers of Albert Einstein and on secondary sources, such as Albrecht Fölsing’s biography of Einstein. He thus refers to biographies to make a point about Marić’s life and influence on Einstein’s 1905 ground-breaking papers. He refers to Walter Isaacson’s 2007 biography of Einstein and says that Isaacson “examined archival material newly released in 2006” (Esterson’s book 2019, page 136). This is absolutely true. Esterson explains in an endnote:

Isaacson1

However, Isaacson inadvertently falls into the trap of Trbuhovic-Gjuric’s biography of Mileva Marić, which according to Esterson is a dubious source:

Isaacson

Isaacson writes in his biography of Einstein, page 136:

“In late summer 1905 Albert, Mileva and Hans Albert visited Belgrade, Mileva’s hometown Ujvidek (now Novi Sad). Walter Isaacson described Mileva Marić’s role in Einstein’s work: Albert and Mileva took a vacation together in Serbia to see her family and friends. “While there, Marić was proud and also willing to accept part of the credit. ‘Not long ago we finished a very significant work that will make my husband world famous’, she told her father, according to stories later recorded there […] and Einstein happily praised his wife’s help. ‘I needed my wife’, he told her friends in Serbia. ‘She solves all the mathematical problems for me'”.

The source is Dennis Overbye’s historical romance, Einstein in Love, in which Overbye has written (page 140):

“‘Not long ago we finished a very significant work that will make my husband world famous’, Mileva told her father in a conversation widely repeated through the years. To the villagers and relatives who remembered her as a childhood genius in mathematics, Mileva had a heroic aura, the local girl who had gone out into the world and made good. Now she had brought back a handsome, adoring husband. Albert knew how to play the crowd. ‘I need my wife’, he is reported to have said, ‘She solves all the mathematical problems for me'”.

Overbye quotes Trbuhovic-Gjuric’s biography of Marić, which was translated to English for him

Isaacson and Overbye simply fell into the trap of Desanka Trbuhovic-Gjuric’s biography of Mileva Marić.

This one minor fly in the ointment in Isaacson’s otherwise good intentioned book would pass unnoticed by the reader. But Esterson is citing Isaacson’s biography in a book the title of which is Einstein’s Wife. The Real Story of Mileva Einstein-Marić, and he thus has to rectify this trifling inadvertency.

 

1 thought on “Did Einstein steal his theory of relativity from his first wife?

  1. The special theory of relativity is erroneous from beginning to end, so the question of the participation of Einstein’s wife in her creation has no meaning.

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