Science and Struggle – The Tale of Mileva Maric-Einstein

Some people struggle in life, struggle with the fact that the world is unfair and might treat them differently than other people. Having money often helps people purchase various interesting things. Having money can’t buy a Nobel Prize or make you smarter if you are unwilling to learn.

But what if you were already smart and had contributed to the world of science but your contributions were often dismissed or a product of fierce debates? That is the story of Mileva Maric-Einstein, physicist and mathematician but most famous for being the wife of Albert Einstein. The story of Einstein is known to many, but the struggles and tragedies of Mileva are not. Here is her story.

Mileva Maric – Early History

Born in Titel on December 19, 1875, which at the time belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Mileva had a great childhood. Born into a rich family, she had an interesting childhood, moving from town to town. She spent some time in Novi Sad, studying at a high school there, then another year in Sremska Mitrovica, before going to Zagreb to study there. Once she fell ill, they went to Switzerland and she studied at the Girls High School in Zurich. She also studied medicine at the University of Zurich before switching to the Zurich Polytechnic, where she also met Einstein. She tried to get her diploma twice, but failed both times. The second time she applied, she was already pregnant with a child from Albert Einstein.

The Tragedy of a Scientist Woman

Mileva contributed to the Annus Mirabilis papers, Einstein’s rather famous work, published in 1905. He wrote them, most likely with the help of Mileva, which she even stated in a letter to her friend. This is debated and has been debated for a long time now. Some people claim that if she had any effect on Einstein, it was minimal, while others suggest that her work was paramount to the success of Einstein’s. 

Regardless, her name isn’t on the official papers and she didn’t even get a posthumous degree, let alone a Nobel Prize. She did, however, get the money from the Nobel Prize to help raise their two sons, Hans and Eduard. 

Zoltan Csala [CC BY (] cropped

Later Years

Mileva and Einstein got a divorce in 1919. She was left with her two sons, one of which, Eduard, ended up being hospitalized for schizophrenia until his death in 1965. Hans Albert Einstein grew up to be a scientist. Mileva had little to no contact with Einstein after their divorce. He emigrated to the United States in 1933 and so did Hans, in 1938. Mileva lived in Zurich until her death in 1948. She was honored by the Zurich Polytechnic, now known as the ZTH, as well as multiple Serbian schools.

Mileva Maric-Einstein had a difficult life, of a woman who aspired to be a scientist to a woman who dropped her science in order to be a mother. One thing is for certain, a woman scientist in the early 20th century did not have an easy time.