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Mileva Marić
Serbian mathematician

Mileva Marić

Mileva Marić
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Serbian mathematician
Was Mathematician Scientist Teacher
From Germany Switzerland
Field Academia Mathematics Science
Gender female
Birth 19 December 1875, Titel, Titel Municipality, South Bačka District, Vojvodina
Death 4 August 1948, Zurich, Canton of Zürich, Switzerland (aged 72 years)
Spouse: Albert Einstein
Children: Lieserl EinsteinEduard EinsteinHans Albert Einstein
Mileva Marić
The details (from wikipedia)


Mileva Marić (Serbian Cyrillic: Милева Марић; December 19, 1875 – August 4, 1948), sometimes called Mileva Marić-Einstein or Mileva Marić-Ajnštajn, was a Serbian physicist. She was the only woman among Albert Einstein's fellow students at Zürich's Polytechnic and was the second woman to finish a full program of study at the Department of Mathematics and Physics. They developed a relationship and had a daughter before their marriage, Lieserl, who died in 1903. After their marriage in 1903, they had two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard.

They separated in 1914, with Marić taking the boys and returning to Zurich from Berlin. They divorced in 1919; that year Einstein married again. When he received the Nobel Prize in 1921, he transferred the money to Marić, chiefly to support their sons; she had access to the interest. In 1930 at about age 20, their second son Eduard had a breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. With expenses mounting by the late 1930s for his institutional care, Marić sold two of the three houses she and Einstein had invested in. He made regular contributions to his sons' care, which he continued after emigrating to the United States with his second wife (Elsa, his first cousin).


On December 19, 1875, Mileva Marić was born into a wealthy family in Titel in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (today Serbia) as the eldest of three children of Miloš Marić (1846–1922) and Marija Ružić–Marić (1847–1935). Shortly after her birth, her father ended his military career and took a job at the court in Ruma and later in Zagreb.

She began her secondary education in 1886 at a high school for girls in Novi Sad, but changed the following year to a high school in Sremska Mitrovica. Beginning in 1890, Marić attended the Royal Serbian Grammar School in Šabac. In 1891 her father obtained special permission to enroll Marić as a private student at the all-male Royal Classical High School in Zagreb. She passed the entrance exam and entered the tenth grade in 1892. She won special permission to attend physics lectures in February 1894 and passed the final exams in September 1894. Her grades in mathematics and physics were the highest awarded. That year she fell seriously ill and decided to move to Switzerland, where on November 14, she started at the "Girls High School" in Zurich. In 1896, Marić passed her Matura-Exam, and started studying medicine at the University of Zurich for one semester.

In the autumn of 1896, Marić switched to the Zurich Polytechnic (later Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH)), having passed the mathematics entrance examination with an average grade of 4.25 (scale 1–6). She enrolled for the diploma course to teach physics and mathematics in secondary schools (section VIA) at the same time as Albert Einstein. She was the only woman in her group of six students, and the fifth woman to enter that section, an impressive feat at a time when women were not usually admitted. She would have had to have been extraordinarily talented to overcome the restrictions on the admission of women. She and Einstein became close friends quite soon. In October Marić went to Heidelberg to study at Heidelberg University for the winter semester 1897/98, attending physics and mathematics lectures as an auditor. She rejoined the Zurich Polytechnic in April 1898, where her studies included the following courses: differential and integral calculus, descriptive and projective geometry, mechanics, theoretical physics, applied physics, experimental physics, and astronomy.

She sat the intermediate diploma examinations in 1899, one year later than the other students in her group. Her grade average of 5.05 (scale 1–6) placed her fifth out of the six students taking the examinations that year. (Einstein had come top of the previous year's candidates with a grade average of 5.7) Marić's grade in physics was 5.5 (the same as Einstein). In 1900, she failed the final teaching diploma examinations with a grade average of 4.00, having obtained only grade 2.5 in the mathematics component (theory of functions). Einstein passed the exam in fourth place with a grade average of 4.91. Passing required a grade of 4 or higher.

Marić's academic career was disrupted in 1901 when she became pregnant by Einstein. When three months pregnant, she resat the diploma examination, but failed for the second time without improving her grade. She discontinued work on her diploma dissertation that she had hoped to develop into a PhD thesis under the supervision of the physics professor Heinrich Weber.

She went to Novi Sad, where her daughter was born in 1902, probably in January. The girl was referred to in correspondence between the couple as Hansel before she was born and Lieserl after. Some sources say Lieserl was put up for adoption in Serbia, but others suggest she died in 1903.

Center: the Einsteinhaus Kramgasse 49 in Bern. On the second floor: the flat where Albert and Mileva Einstein lived from 1903 to 1905

Role in physics

Albert and Mileva Einstein, 1912

The question whether (and if so, to what extent) Marić contributed to Einstein's early work, and to the Annus Mirabilis Papers in particular, has been the subject of some debate. A consensus among professional historians of physics is that she made no significant scientific contribution. Some academics have argued that she was a supportive companion in science and may have helped him materially in his research.

The case for Marić as a co-author of some of Einstein's early work, putatively culminating in the 1905 papers, is based mostly on the following evidence:

"The testimony of the well-known Russian physicist Abram Joffe, who gave the name of the author of the three Annus Mirabilis Papers as Einstein-Marity, erroneously attributing the addition of the name Marity, Marić's official name, to a non-existing Swiss custom.

In the paragraph in question, in which Joffe stated that "Einstein's" entrance into the arena of science in 1905 was "unforgettable", he described the author (singular) of the 1905 papers as "a bureaucrat at the Patent Office in Bern", i.e., Albert Einstein.

  • Mileva told a Serbian friend, referring to 1905, that "we finished some important work that will make my husband world famous". Such reminiscences have been described as "hometown folklore", by historians Highfield and Carter.
  • Letters in which Einstein referred to "our" theory and "our" work. John Stachel points out that these letters were written in their student days, at least four years before the 1905 papers. Some of the instances in which Einstein used "our" in relation to scientific work referred to their diploma dissertations, for which they each chose the same topic (experimental studies of heat conduction). Einstein used "our" in general statements, while he invariably used "I" and "my" when he recounted "specific" ideas he was working on: "the letters to Marić show Einstein referring to 'his' studies, 'his' work on the electrodynamics of moving bodies over a dozen times... as compared to 'one' reference to 'our' work on the problem of relative motion." In two cases where letters from Marić survive that directly respond to those from Einstein in which he had recounted his latest ideas, she gives no response at all. Her letters, in contrast to Einstein's, contain only personal matters, or comments related to her Polytechnic coursework. Stachel writes: "In her case we have no published papers, no letters with a serious scientific content, either to Einstein nor to anyone else; nor any objective evidence of her supposed creative talents. We do not even have hearsay accounts of conversations she had with anyone else that have a specific, scientific content, let alone claiming to report her ideas."
  • The divorce agreement in which Einstein promised her his Nobel Prize money. But Einstein made this proposal to persuade a reluctant Marić to agree to divorce him, and under the terms of the agreement, the money was to be held in trust for their two boys, while she was able to draw on the interest. Based on newly released letters (sealed by Einstein's step-granddaughter, Margot Einstein, until 20 years after her death), Walter Isaacson reported that Marić eventually invested the Nobel Prize money in three apartment buildings in Zurich to produce income.

There is no strong evidence to support the idea that Marić helped Einstein to develop his theories. The couple's first son, Hans Albert, said that when his mother married Einstein, she gave up her scientific ambitions. Einstein remained an extremely fruitful scientist well into the 1920s, producing work of the greatest importance long after separating from Marić in 1914. She, on the other hand, never published anything. Marić was never mentioned as having been involved with his work by the friends and colleagues of Einstein, who engaged in countless discussions of his ideas with him. Marić herself never claimed that she had ever played any role in Einstein's scientific work, nor hinted at such a role in personal letters to her closest friend, Helene Savić.

Marriage and family

In 1903, Marić and Einstein married in Bern, Switzerland, where Einstein had found a job at the Federal Office for Intellectual Property. In 1904 their first son, Hans Albert, was born. The Einsteins lived in Bern until 1909, when Einstein got a teaching position at the University of Zürich. In 1910, their second son Eduard was born. In 1911, they moved to Prague, where Einstein held a teaching position at the Charles University. A year later, they returned to Zurich, as Einstein had accepted a professorship at his alma mater.

Move to Berlin and separation

In July 1913, Max Planck and Walther Nernst asked Einstein to come to Berlin, which he agreed to, but the decision caused Marić distress. In August the Einsteins planned a walking holiday with their sons and Marie Curie and her two daughters. Marić was delayed temporarily due to Eduard being ill, but they joined the party. In September 1913, the Einsteins visited Marić's parents near Novi Sad, and on the day they were to leave for Vienna, Marić had her sons baptised as Orthodox Christians. After Vienna, Einstein visited relatives in Germany while Marić returned to Zurich. After Christmas, she traveled to Berlin to stay with Fritz Haber, who helped her look for accommodation for the Einsteins' impending move in April 1914. The Einsteins both left Zurich for Berlin in late March. On the way, Einstein visited an uncle in Antwerp and then Ehrenfest and Lorentz in Leiden, while Marić took a holiday with the children in Locarno, arriving in Berlin in mid-April.

The marriage had been strained since 1912, in the spring of which Einstein became reacquainted with his cousin, Elsa. They began a regular correspondence. Marić, who had never wanted to go to Berlin, became increasingly unhappy in the city. Soon after settling in Berlin, Einstein insisted on harsh terms if she were to remain with him. In 1914, she took the boys back to Zürich, a separation that was to become permanent. Einstein made a legal commitment to send her an annual maintenance of 5600 Reichsmarks in quarterly instalments, just under half of his salary. After the required five years of separation, the couple divorced on February 14, 1919.

They had negotiated a settlement whereby the Nobel Prize money that Einstein anticipated he would soon receive was to be placed in trust for their two boys. Einstein would receive the prize for his work, and she would receive the money. Marić could draw on the interest, but had no authority over the capital without Einstein's permission. After Einstein married a second time in June 1919, he returned to Zurich to talk to Marić about the children's future. During the visit, he took Hans Albert for a sail on Lake Constance and Eduard to Arosa for convalescence.

In 1922, Einstein received news that he had won the Nobel Prize in November; he transferred the money to Marić in 1923. The money was used to purchase three houses in Zürich. Marić lived in one, a five-storey house at Huttenstrasse 62; the other two were investments.

In 1930, at around 20, Eduard had a breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. By the late 1930s the costs of his care at the University of Zürich's psychiatric clinic "Burghölzli" overwhelmed Marić. She sold two houses to raise funds for his care and maintenance. In 1939, Marić agreed to transfer ownership of the Huttenstrasse house to Einstein to prevent its loss as well, but retained power of attorney. Einstein made regular cash transfers to Marić for Eduard's and her own livelihood.


Mileva Marić died at age 72 on August 4, 1948, in Zürich. She was interred there at Nordheim-Cemetery. Eduard Einstein was institutionalized until his death in 1965.


Memorial gravestone at the Nordheim Cemetery in Zürich
Bust on the campus of the University of Novi Sad

In 2005, Marić was honoured in Zürich by the ETH and the Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. A memorial plaque was unveiled on her former residence in Zürich, the house Huttenstrasse 62, in her memory. In the same year a bust was placed in her high-school town, Sremska Mitrovica. Another bust is located on the campus of the University of Novi Sad. A high school in her birthplace of Titel is named after her. Sixty years after her death, a memorial plate was placed on the house of the former clinic in Zürich where she died. In June 2009 a memorial gravestone was dedicated to her at the Nordheim-Cemetery in Zürich where she rests.

In 1995, Narodna knjiga in Belgrade published (in Serbian) Mileva Marić Ajnštajn by Dragana Bukumirović, a journalist with Politika.

Three years later, in 1998, Vida Ognjenović produced a drama, Mileva Ajnštajn, which was translated into English in 2002. Ognjenović later adapted the play into a libretto for the opera Mileva, composed by Aleksandra Vrebalov, which premiered in 2011 in the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad.

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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