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 this part the author Allen Esterson fails to mention my work on the subject:

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

And the MIT Technology Review report about my paper:

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

I expanded on the aforementioned topic in my book:

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

And in 2013 I corrected Esterson’s draft on Mileva Marić and Einstein (the topic of the book).

It is also a pity that Esterson does not mention Don Howard’s wonderful analysis of the possible Einstein-Marić collaboration. Howard brings in a completely new perspective to the conversation. The problem is multifaceted, reflecting several different points of view and Howard presents these points of view.

Esterson’s 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).


Esterson writes:



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.

In his book, Esterson repeats the John Stachel 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.

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


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.

Esterson also refers to secondary sources and 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:


However, Isaacson fell into the trap of Trbuhovic-Gjuric’s biography of Mileva Marić:


In my book, Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity (2nd Edition) I explain it. I write the following passage about Isaacson’s biography of Einstein, which I paste here:

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'” (Isaacson’s biography of Einstein 2007, page 136).
The source is Dennis Overbye’s historical romance, Einstein in Love, in which Overbye has written (Overbye’s book 2000, 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'”. And so they lived happily ever after in the world of the historical romance; and unfortunately, in some books and papers that quoted this last sentence.
Overbye quotes a dubious source, Desanka Trbuhovic-Gjuric’s biography of Marić: Im Schatten Albert Einsteins, das tragische Leben der Mileva Einstein-Marić (In the Shadow of Albert Einstein: The Tragic Life of Mileva Marić), which was translated to English for him (Trbuhovic-Gjuric 1983). This book first appeared in Serbian in 1969 and a German edition was posthumously published in 1983. Highfield and Carter write that the book relies heavily on hearsay. Around 1905, for example, Einstein is alleged to have told Mileva’s father in Serbia that everything that he had created and attained “I owe to Mileva […] Without her I would never have begun my work not finished it”. These comments come to us “fourth-hand” from Mileva’s student friend from Zurich, Milana Bota. In an interview with a Belgrade journalist in 1929, Bota claimed to have been told by Mileva of her role in relativity five or six years earlier. Trbuhovic-Gjuric repeated many such comments from Mileva’s relatives and acquaintances. Milana Bota’s account reflects her great affection for Mileva, and perhaps also her lingering resentment against Einstein: “the German, whom I hate” (Highfield and Carter 1994, 110).

The above passage is from my book which was edited by John Stachel. It is well-known that Highfield and Carter had conversations with Stachel.

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.



Some of the topics discussed in my first book, Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity

People ask questions about Einstein’s special theory of relativity: How did Einstein come up with the theory of special relativity? What did he invent? What is the theory of special relativity? How did Einstein discover special relativity? Was Einstein the first to arrive at special relativity? Was Einstein the first to invent E = mc2?

Did Poincaré publish special relativity before Einstein? Was Einstein’s special theory of relativity revolutionary for scientists of his day? How did the scientific community receive Einstein’s theory of special relativity when he published it? What were the initial reaction in the scientific community after Einstein had published his paper on special relativity?

In my book, Einstein’s Pathway to the Special Theory of Relativity, I try to answer these and many other questions.The topics discussed in my book are the following:

I start with Einstein’s childhood and school days.


I then discuss Einstein’s student days at the Zurich Polytechnic. Einstein the rebellious cannot take authority, the patent office, Annus Mirabilis, University of Bern and University of Zurich, Minkowski’s space-time formalism of special relativity.


Young Einstein, Aarau Class 1896

Additional topics treeated in my book are the following: Fizeau’s water tube experiment, Fresnel’s formula (Fresnel’s dragging coefficient), stellar aberration, and the Michelson and Michelson-Morley Experiments.


Albert Einstein at the Patent office

Mileva Marić and Einstein




Eduard Tete, Mileva Marić and Hans Albert


Einstein’s road to the special theory of relativity: Einstein first believes in the ether, he imagines the chasing a light beam thought experiment and the magnet and conductor thought experiment. Did Einstein respond to the Michelson and Morley experiment? Emission theory, Fizeau’s water tube experiment and ether drift experiments and Einstein’s path to special relativity; “The Step”.


Henri Poincaré’s possible influence on Einstein’s road to the special theory of relativity.


Einstein’s methodology and creativity, special principle of relativity and principle of constancy of the velocity of light, no signal moves beyond the speed of light, rigid body and special relativity, the meaning of distant simultaneity, clock synchronization, Lorentz contraction, challenges to Einstein’s connection of synchronisation and Lorentz contraction, Lorentz transformation with no light postulate, superluminal velocities, Laue’s derivation of Fresnel’s formula, the clock paradox and twin paradox, light quanta, mass-energy equivalence, variation of mass with velocity, Kaufmann’s experiments, the principles of relativity as heuristic principles, and Miller ether drift experiments.


The book also briefly discusses general relativity: Einstein’s 1920 “Geometry and Experience” talk (Einstein’s notion of practical geometry), equivalence principle, equivalence of gravitational and inertial mass, Galileo’s free fall, generalized principle of relativity, gravitational time dilation, the Zurich Notebook, theory of static gravitational fields, the metric tensor, the Einstein-Besso manuscript, Einstein-Grossmann Entwurf theory and Entwurf field equations, the hole argument, the inertio-gravitational field, Einstein’s general relativity: November 1915 field equations, general covariance and generally covariant field equations, the advance of Mercury’s perihelion, Schwarzschild’s solution and singularity, Mach’s principle, Einstein’s 1920 suggestion: Mach’s ether, Einstein’s static universe, the cosmological constant, de Sitter’s universe, and other topics in general relativity and cosmology which lead directly to my second book, General Relativity Conflict and Rivalries.


My books