“Now farewell, darling, be quite happy and if you come across nice flowers, bring me some.”

Mileva Maric in a letter to Albert Einstein, May 2, 1901

Short life history: Mileva Einstein-Maric

* December 19, 1875 Titel, Hungary, †August 4, 1948 Zurich

After a childhood without worries Mileva attended elementary school in Ruma from 1882 on. Through the promotion of her father who had early recognized Mileva’s great talent, she changed to the Serbian Higher Girls’ College in Novi Sad in 1886. In 1887 she attended secondary school and from 1890 on she attended the Royal Serbian Grammar School in Sabac. As the family moved to Zagreb in 1891/92 she continued her education at the Royal Highest Grammar School.

To complete her education she attended the Higher Daughter School of the city of Zurich in Switzerland in 1894. Mileva wanted to study medicine and passed her A-levels successfully at the Swiss Medicine School in Berne in 1896. As in these times it was quite rare for women to study and in Europe it was only the Zurich University letting women make their exams she went to Zurich again and enrolled at the University for studying medicine. Shortly after that, however, she changed over to the Swiss Polytechnics (from 1911 on Swiss Technical College, ETH – Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule), where she entered the department VI A (education of mathematics and physics teachers). In her age-group she was the only female student. One of her fellow students was Albert Einstein (1879–1955).

1 Mileva Maric, ca. 1896

Mileva, whose mathematical and physical interest was very great, studied with short interruptions at the Swiss Polytechnics from 1896-1901. But as she didn’t pass the final examinations she abandoned her studies and received a leaving certificate.

During her years of study Mileva and Albert Einstein fell in love. Her illegitimate daughter, Lieserl, was born in 1902. The further life of Lieserl is unknown today. Probably she was put up for adoption . They married against the will of her families in Berne in 1903. Their first son, Hans Albert, was born in 1904 and her second son, Eduard, in 1910.

Again and again some people say that Mileva made a great contribution to Einstein’s theories from this time, such as the special theory of relativity. Of course both had discussed Einstein’s work whereby Mileva has introduced some ideas. But it is pure speculation to say that Mileva had a greater share in Einstein’s theories. Today there are no written records which make clear that Mileva had provided scientific contributions to Einstein’s theories. But her personal and intellectual relationship with the young Einstein has sure played an important role in his career.

In the course of the years Mileva and Albert drifted apart. Shortly after Einstein had moved to Berlin with his family in 1914 he was called to the University in Berlin and they separated. Mileva went back to Zurich with her sons. The marriage between Mileva and Albert was divorced in 1919.

Mileva lived with their sons in Zurich in decent circumstances. Albert Einstein received the Nobel Prize for physics for the year 1921. As he had promised Mileva received all the money from the Nobel Prize. She invested the money in real estates. Due to high costs caused by the illness of her youngest son Eduard, who suffered from a mental illness, she had to sell most of the real estates again. Hans Albert married in 1927 and a few years later went with his family to the United States. Mileva continued to take loving care of the ill Eduard who later was treated in the sanatorium Burghölzli.

The last years Mileva Maric lived alone and withdrawn. She died in August 1948 in Zurich.

Illustrations Credits:
Courtesy of the Schweizerisches Literaturarchiv (SLA), Bern: 1