Note: When Einstein died on April 18, 1955 he left a piece of writing ending in an unfinished sentence. These were his last words: In essence, the conflict that exists today is no more than an old-style struggle for power, once again presented to mankind in semireligious trappings.
, Helen Dukas’ (Einstein’s secretary) co-trustee of the Einstein estate recalled:
During my last conversation with Einstein, only a few hours before his death, he talked about the embattled civil liberties in the United States since the end of the war and the rearmament of Germany, which he considered most unwise and a severe obstacle to the establishment of real peace in the world. A few days before, he had affixed the last signature of his life to a statement of nine scientists, in which the world was warned it would run the risk of universal annihilation unless the institution of war was abolished in the near future.
From Einstein on Peace by Albert Einstein, Edited by Otto Nathan and Heinz Norden, 1988.
Einstein’s biographer Albrecht Fölsing :
Shortly after one O’clock on Monday morning, he became restless, spoke a few words in German which the night nurse could not understand, and died.
Thus, at approximately 1:00 a.m. on April 18, 1955, Einstein’s night nurse went in to check on him whilst asleep, he mumbled something in German, a language she could not understand, and then he died.
It is an extraordinary claim, and as such, requires evidence. Einstein scholars (notably John Stachel and Robert Schulmann) have spent a lot of time and effort clarifying the sources of the allegation which as far as I can see, boils down to two claims:
- That Abram Fedorovich Joffe, a member of the Soviet academy of Sciences and an assistant to Röntgen from 1902 until 1906, saw the original manuscript of the relativity paper, Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Korper, and that this manuscript was signed “Einstein-Marity.” And “Marity” is a Hungarian variant of the Serbian “Marić,” Mileva’s maiden name. So, the claim goes, Mileva Marić Einstein’s name was on the original manuscript, but was then left out of the published article, where Albert Einstein’s name appears alone.
- That on March 27, 1901 Einstein wrote a letter to Marić that included the clause “… bringing our work on relative motion to a successful conclusion.” Note the “our,” which implies that the work was done in collaboration.
Let’s take these in turn.
The trouble with the first claim is that it is simply not true. This story seems to have come from Dr. Trbuhović-Gjurić, who claims that Joffe saw the manuscript of the 1905 relativity paper before it was published, and that it had both Einstein’s and Marić’s names on it.
But Dr. Trbuhović-Gjurić has been interviewed (by Schulmann) and asked for her evidence for this claim. She cited the published memoirs of Joffe as her source. This is fascinating, for Joffe’s memoirs are publicly available, so we can check them out directly.
And Joffe says nothing like this in his memoirs. This is what he says instead:
In 1905, three articles appeared in the ‘Annalen der Physik’, which began three very important branches of 20th century physics. Those were the theory of Brownian motion, the photon theory of light, and the theory of relativity. The author of these articles – an unknown person at that time, was a bureaucrat at the Patent Office in Bern, Einstein-Marity (Marity the maiden name of his wife, which by Swiss custom is added to the husband’s family name)
(Stachel, 2005, quoting Joffe’s 1955 article in the Soviet journal Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk)
So, there’s nothing about having seen an original manuscript, not of the relativity paper nor of the other two. Nor is there anything about the name “Einstein-Marity” appearing on any of these papers — all Joffe is doing is noting a Swiss custom, while giving the credit for all three papers to one bureaucrat in the Bern patent office.
Somehow this passage seems to have been misunderstood and scrambled into a claim of seeing a name on an original manuscript of one of the papers, which then further was interpreted as a claim that his wife co-wrote the paper.
Incidentally, Joffe is highly unlikely to have seen any manuscript of the 1905 relativity paper; Röntgen was an experimental physicist, and there was no good reason to send him a manuscript, which famously has no experimental results in it.
The second claim at least has the advantage of referring to something real. This is indeed what Einstein wrote in a letter to Marić. Let’s look at the context.
Right now Michele [Besso] is staying in Trieste at his parents with his wife and child and only returns here [Milan] in about 10 days. You need have no fear that I will say a word to him or anyone else about you. You are and will remain a holy shrine to me into which no one may enter; I also know that of all people you love me most deeply and understand me best. I also assure you that no one here either dares to or wants to say anything bad about you. How happy and proud I will be when the two of us together will have brought our work on relative motion to a successful conclusion! When I look at other people, then I truly realize what you are!
(27 March 1901, Vol. 1, p. 282).
This is interesting, but it is clearly written by a young man deeply in love, and wanting to look upon the couple as a team, even as one being.
There are many other letters from Einstein to Marić where it is made clear who is doing the work. And these clarifications appear both before and after this 1901 letter. A couple of examples, one each side of 1901 (there are many others to choose from, so knock yourself out; the originals are all here: ):
A good way of investigating how a body’s relative motion with respect to the luminiferous ether affects the velocity of propagation of light in transparent bodies occurred to me in Aarau. I have also thought of a theory on this subject that seems to me to be very plausible. But enough of this!
(10 September 1899 Vol. 1, p. 230)
I spent the whole afternoon with Kleiner in Zurich and explained my ideas on the electrodynamics of moving bodies to him. … He advised me to publish my ideas about the electromagnetic theory of light for moving bodies together with the experimental method. He found the experimental method proposed by me to be the simplest and most appropriate one conceivable. … I shall most certainly write the paper in the coming weeks
(19 December 1901 Vol. 1, p. 328)
We also have several of Marić’s replies to these letters. She does not say anything technical about science in any of these letters, but offers only general encouragement (e.g., “I am so glad that Kleiner was kind to you”). And in offering this encouragement, Marić repeatedly refers to your work, your ideas, and your studies. Also, bear in mind that the very reason that these letters are being written is that they are physically separated. During this time, if there was collaboration going on, then it could only be done by letter.
It’s also easy to see the contrast when we compare these letters to ones to and from Einstein’s life-long collaborators Marcel Grossman and Michele Besso, which are filled with theories, formulae, and speculations on physics, both to and from Einstein. The letters to and from Marić have none of these.
So this appears to support a picture of the 1901 letter where a very-much-in-love Einstein, in one letter, extended his conception of the sum of Albert and Mileva’s endeavours to the product of the couple as a team. The other letters (and there are reams of them) make it clear where the scientific work was being done.
Of course it might be that these are not the key pieces of evidence. If there is anything further, we should look at it too. There are too many women who have been given too little credit in scientific history, and no one should be above suspicion. However, these are the only pieces of evidence I know of that are cited in support of the claim that Einstein plagiarized from his wife, and they appear woefully inadequate to support anything of the kind.
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