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Mileva the Physicist

Everyone's heard of Albert Einstein. But who knew his wife Mileva collaborated on all his research, often solving mathematical problems for him?

Mileva was born in Serbia in 1875 to a wealthy family. A bright student, she petitioned to attend physics lectures, something reserved only for male students. She moved to Switzerland and enrolled in Zurich Polytechnic, where she met and quickly fell in love with Albert. Mileva was the only woman in her six-person class and scored high on all entrance exams.


The inseparable pair studied together, with Albert noting in letters how he couldn't focus on schoolwork without her help. By the time the two graduated in 1900, they held equal grades...except for applied physics, which Albert nearly failed.


Despite Mileva's hard work, she never received her degree. During her final examination, her professor gave high marks to all male members of the class, but failed Mileva.


The two began their thesis work. In December that year, they submitted their first article under only Albert's name. At the time, a publication co-authored by a woman would have been marked as "inferior," so the pair equally agreed to advance Albert's career over hers.


His letters show the two even collaborated on the theory of relativity.


Around this time, the pair got pregnant. Albert's family demanded he secure a job before he marry her (it didn't help that she was a Serbian scientist with a limp. They didn't approve). With no job in sight, Mileva returned to the professor who failed her and demanded to retake the oral examination. He agreed, then failed her a second time.


The pair worked together into the night on scientific experiments and articles. They were known to solve physics problems under the light of the kerosene lantern. In 1905, Mileva wrote they had completed research that would make her husband's name known around the world.


By 1909 Albert was a highly regarded physicist, still secretly assisted by his wife. Many of his lecture notes were in her handwriting.


Their relationship fell apart due to Albert's infidelity. He promised to share winnings if he ever won the Nobel Prize if Mileva would grant him a divorce. Three years later, he won the prize. He set up an account for his sons and Mileva drew from the interest.


Mileva once said, "What is there to say of notoriety? One gets the pearl, the other gets the shell."




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