The Mother of Relativity

Published November 16, 2007 by missharleyquinn

I was looking around online  for information about great women of history, for the next Brownie meeting (Yes, I’m a troop leader and loving it) and found this interesting article.

Mileva Maric
Mother of the Theory of Relativity

By Meryl Ann Butler

 

Mileva Maric was born in Hungary on December 19, 1875. The few who know her story, marvel at it.

She was born with a displaced hip that would become a lifelong limp. But she was a gifted child, displaying brilliance in the arts and sciences, and her wealthy parents supported her intellectual growth with an outstanding education. She was admitted to an all-male high school, one of the first girls in her country to be accorded that privilege. Due to her handicap and plain looks, she did not generate interest from the boys, but that allowed her to focus on her studies, and she was awarded top grades in physics as well as mathematics.

Passionate about physics, she planned a career in a field that few women had ever even considered, enrolling in a prestigious polytechnic school, as the only woman enrolled at the time, and the 5th woman in the school’s history.

There she shone like a bright star, and a student several years her junior idolized her. Mileva seemed to him to be a kind of goddess of physics, and he worshipped the ground she stood on. She saw in him an extraordinary potential, and nurtured it.

The two became inseparable, studying the works of renowned physicists and philosophers as their relationship deepened. Mileva was soaring with the unbridled adulation of her young admirer. He was intoxicated with his muse. They were constant companions, colleagues, and confidantes. In affectionate letters during their times apart, they endearingly addressed each other as “Johnny” and “Dollie”, and wrote of science, philosophy and love.

When Dollie was accepted at the University of Zurich as a Ph.D candidate, Johnny followed her…or tried to. His grades were insufficient to get him into the doctoral program, but he was accepted to study there. Then Dollie received a coveted position as an assistant to a well-known and respected professor. Johnny was not much for attending lectures, but he wanted desperately to work in the lab with this scientist. Dollie pleaded, but was unable to convince the professor to accept the rather ordinary student as an assistant.

Then an unexpected pregnancy changed the course of the young couple’s lives. Johnny was unable to support them. Pregnant, unmarried and stressed, Dollie uncharacteristically failed her final exams. She left her studies and they struggled to find employment. Dollie’s parents thought her boyfriend was a ne’er-do-well, unable to support himself, let alone a wife and child. Johnny’s parents were appalled that Dollie was handicapped, was not Jewish, and most importantly, was far too intellectual for a woman. Johnny conveniently disappeared and Dollie went home to her parents.

He never came to see his baby. Distraught, disgraced and depressed, the 27-year old unwed mother reluctantly gave her daughter up for adoption.

With the child out of the picture, Johnny ventured back, and they reconciled. A friend helped him procure a simple job as a clerk, and they married in 1903, despite their families’ protests. Their newlywed times were idyllic. In their evenings together, they nestled by the fire, and fueled with the creativity of reignited love they explored the intellectual ecstasies of their innovative ideas, the very activities that had brought them together in the beginning.

In 1905, a paper with the theories they had developed, and with one name – Dollie’s – on it, was completed. But by the time the paper was published, her name was replaced by her husband’s. Maybe she agreed to it, surmising rightly for that day and age, that something so radical, if authored by a woman, would have been instantly dismissed.

As time passed, Dollie became a busy mother of two boys, making up as best as she could for the neglect they received from their father. The practicalities of daily life chipped away the pedestal that her husband had placed her on. And it was no secret that Johnny was straying from his family, spending time with other women, eventually falling madly in love with his cousin, and later with her eldest daughter.

One evening when Johnny arrived at a party alone, their friends, concerned, asked about Dollie. Not satisfied with Johnny’s evasive answer, they checked on her. They found Dollie at home crying, her face bruised and swollen, but refusing to explain what had happened. Shortly after, Johnny relocated his family to another country so that he could be closer to his lover-cousin. A listing of his many abuses of Dollie during this time, written in his own hand, remains in archives today.

As a result of Johnny’s insistence and relentless cruelty, Dollie finally agreed to a divorce. But only on the condition that any future prize monies that her ex-husband might make based on her theories, would be paid to her.

And that is why, when Albert Einstein won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1921, he quietly forwarded the check to his ex-wife, Mileva Maric, who used the money in her continuing, lifelong struggle to support herself and their children.

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3 comments on “The Mother of Relativity

  • Holy crap! Einstein wasn’t the smart one. This is mind blowing! D’ya think we should send your research to school with the girls? It might really shake things up a bit!

    How the world would shake if women got their due.

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