The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict, is a work of historical fiction about a woman whose story has largely been lost to time…
Mileva Marić Einstein was Albert Einstein’s first wife. They met when they were physics classmates together at the Zurich Polytechnic, where they were both studying physics and mathematics. She was brilliant in her own right, being the second woman in the history of the university to finish the course of study. Marić and Einstein collaborated on several projects while they were students, and historical records show that they were equals in the scientific field, although their fellow students believed Marić’s mathematical abilities surpassed Einstein’s. He was an attentive and passionate suitor, and showered her with love and affection during their courtship.
Things changed once she got pregnant out of wedlock with his child. Marić returned to her family home during her pregnancy and remained there after the birth of their daughter. She repeatedly requested that Einstein visit them, and that he marry her and make their child legitimate, but he let her down, and left her alone for several months during her pregnancy and after the birth of their daughter. Even after she was born, he refused to marry her and legitimize their daughter; the record is unclear, and does not account for what happened to their daughter, other than the fact that she was no longer in their lives when they married.
Marić and Einstein finally married in 1903; and by all accounts, it was an unhappy marriage. Einstein had a brilliant mind, but the historical record does not reflect kindly on his ability to maintain a kind or loving relationship. It was his way or the highway; he expected his wife to act as a servant during their marriage, rather than a partner. Her wishes went unheeded and her aspirations were ignored. It is unknown whether Marić played a role in collaborating with Einstein on his theories, especially his Theory of Relativity, but it is quite possible that she was involved in his research and never received credit. It must have been heartbreaking for her to be in love with a man who simply wanted control and submission from her, rather than a partner in life.
The book is insightful into the mind of a man who had many talents, of which his ability to treat people kindly was not one. Over time, their relationship suffered as a result of his ongoing emotional abuse and neglect. Her academic passions, her career and the love of her husband had all been stripped from her by the man who once swore that they were one. They separated in 1914, and finally divorced (after the mandatory waiting period) in 1919.
This book is part love story, and part the story of an incredibly strong woman who was ahead of her time… She had to make a choice between her career and a marriage, and in the end she got neither… Her story is not uplifting, but relatable for intelligent, career women to this day.