Could the Real Genius Please Stand Up?

Was Einstein's first wife Mileva Maric, the brains of the operation?

In the 1980s Evan Walker Harris published a theory that Einstein’s first wife Mileva co-wrote his 1905 theory of special relativity.

Though the idea caused quite a stir at the time, it was almost immediately shut down by historians and physicists alike.

The theory popped up after soviet physicist Abram Fedorovich Joffe described letter correspondence he had with Einstein. Joffe received pre-prints of Einstein’s papers, and Joffe instead of listing Einstein as the sole author, wrote the author as “Einstein-Marity”- Marity being Mileva’s last name (Marity the maiden name of his wife, which by Swiss custom is added to the husband’s family name). This misunderstanding prompted Russian science writer Daniil Semenvich Danin to suggest that Mileva was more than just Einstein’s wife, but a collaborator on his work.

Walker believes that Mileva not only collaborated on his famous theory but suggested Einstein may have actually stolen his wife’s theories.

PRAGUE - Samantha Colley plays Mileva Maric in National Geographic's Genius.

A translated letter between Einstein and his first wife Mileva reveals that even Einstein didn’t see his theory as just his, referring to his theory of relative motion as “our”:

Bringing our work on relative motion to a successful conclusion!

Further analysis of the letters show that while Einstein discussed his theory with Mileva, her letters didn’t contain any mention of physics or intellectual feedback. Which makes sense seeing as Mileva never passed her final examinations (potentially due to the illegitimate child, she and Einstein birthed) and was never granted a diploma.

However, when Mileva and Einstein divorced in 1919, the divorce settlement stated that if Einstein were to win a Nobel Prize, Mileva would receive all royalties.

A weird agreement to make if Mileva had no contribution to Einstein’s theory...

Without sufficient evidence, there is no real way to know if Mileva had any contribution to Einstein’s theories. All we can do now is speculate.

Watch: Mileva Maric - the driven and passionate young woman whose mind for physics stole Albert Einstein's heart.

Don't miss the second episode of Genius Monday at 8.30pm on National Geographic

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