Who is Mileva Maric? A genius, innovator, and mathematician, who was the second female to ever graduate from the Mathematics and Physics program at Zurich’s Polytechnic school, that’s who!
Mileva was born in 1875 of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Serbia, and attended prestigious schools throughout her life, thanks to a wealthy upbringing and links to royalty. She was able to attend schools that women typically did not attend, including an all boys school, which enabled her to achieve the best possible education. Following her initial schooling, Mileva went on to attend post-secondary schooling in Zurich at the Polytechnic school. This school was incredibly hard to receive a place in, and in being offered a position (especially being a female during the late 1800s), it secured her within the academic community as an intellectual of certain gifts and abilities to be admired. Referenced by Einstein as “a creature who is my equal and who is strong and independent as I am.”
She was a fellow student alongside Albert Einstein at the Polytechnic school, and later on came to marry him, have three children with him, and subsequently divorced him. She sat her final exams while pregnant with their first child, unwed at the time, and though she did not pass the examination, she did not lose her love of mathematics and physics. The two remained friendly and co-parented well. But suffice to say, we are not here to talk about her love life!
One of the biggest speculations surrounding Mileva’s life, is whether or not Mileva contributed and aided Einstein in his mathematical successes and discoveries. As someone who studied the same things that he did, and who had frequent discussions with him, it is not entirely implausible to think that Mileva might have had an impact. Of course, there are varying sources who state that some of the work was referred to in the plural sense by Einstein, signalling a secondary party, and others who state that it was mentioned by Mileva herself that she contributed but did not wish to take any credit. There are numerous pieces of evidence that Mileva made a significant contribution, and many are certain that she was the key to Einstein’s genius.
Mileva was a scholar, and was widely recognized during her studies, as well as posthumously, for her work and her contribution to the academic community, and there are several busts, plaques, and memorials scattered throughout Zurich, and different towns she lived in while she was younger in Serbia. While we will never know the truth about how much she truly contributed to the scientific breakthroughs that were named by Albert Einstein, we can appreciate her talent and knowledge and honour her as a profound academic who shall not be forgotten.