EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Forty-three autograph letters signed ("Albert Einstein," "Albert," "Johonnesl," "Johonzel," "Albert Johonzel", etc.), to Mileva Maric, various places (Zurich, Milan, Schaffhausen, Bern, Winterthur, etc.), 16 February 1898 - 19(?) September 1903. Together 149 pages, 12mo and 8vo, all but 4 written in ink on various papers including squared scientific notepaper, a portion of the recto and the entire verso of letter 3 containing equations and diagrams, letter 5 on a leaf from a notebook with English exercises in Mileva's hand and a pencilled note in Serbian in the hand of Mileva's friend Milana Bota, letter 21 incorporating a small ink drawing of the sole of a foot, letter 33 written on verso of a blank invoice (headed "Rechnung"), letter 49 incorporating a small, neatly drawn, keyed diagram of Einstein's furnished room in Bern, with three original envelopes addressed by Einstein ("Fraülein Mileva Maric"), the envelope for letter 8 bearing on its verso brief notes from Einstein's mother, Pauline, and Einstein's sister, Maja.
[With:] MARIC, MILEVA. Ten autograph letters signed ("D," "Doxerl," "Dockerl," "Dock," "Toxerline," and "Weiberl") to Albert Einstein, various places (Heidelberg, Kac, Zurich and Stein am Rhein), 20 October 1897 - 28 November 1901. Together 29¼ pages, 24mo, 12mo and 8vo all written in ink on various papers including squared scientific notepaper, letter 42 on yellow notepaper with address panel in Einstein's hand, stamped and postmarked.
[With:] Partly printed document, Zurich, 28 April 1897, 1 page, 4to, accomplished in manuscript, lightly browned, with purple stamp certifying that the matter had been settled, directing Albert Einstein to register with the Swiss authorities.
[With:] ALBERT EINSTEIN and MILEVA MARIC. Printed announcement of their marriage, Bern, [c. 6 January 1903]. The message reads: "Albert Einstein Mileva Maric are pleased to announce to you their marriage which is taking place on January 6, 1903." Beneath, their address is given as "Bern, Tillierstrasse 18."
When the eighteen-year-old Albert Einstein (1879-1955) entered the Swiss Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich in 1896, one of his classmates was a young Serbian woman, Mileva Maric (1875-1948). Einstein and Mileva studied together, became friends, then lovers, and married in 1903 soon after Einstein had taken up an appointment in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. Their correspondence began in the autumn of 1897, when Mileva spent a semester in Heidelberg, and continued with notes in Zurich and letters exchanged during vacations. The surviving letters -- 43 from Einstein, 10 from Mileva -- document the progress of their love affair and offer the only known evidence for the birth in 1902 of their illegitimate daughter Lieserl. $SThe correspondence also provides primary evidence for the intellectual formation of the young Albert Einstein and for his scientific thinking in the years preceding the publication of his three great papers on the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion and the special theory of relativity in 1905.
The Young Albert Einstein
In 1897 Einstein was 18 years old. Born in Ulm, Germany, he had grown up in Munich. His father, Hermann Einstein, owned a series of unsuccessful small businesses. In 1894 Einstein's parents moved to Italy to open a business there, and although Albert was left behind in Munich to finish his education, he soon dropped out of the Luitpold Gymnasium to join his parents in Pavia. In the fall of 1895 he took the entrance examination for the Zurich Polytechnic, which he failed, but he scored well in mathematics and physics. After a year at the cantonal high school in Aarau, Switzerland, he was admitted to the Polytechnic in the autumn of 1896, when he took up residence in Zurich. In April 1897 Einstein still had not registered with the Zurich authorities, in violation of the law, and an official notice was issued requiring him to pay a fine of 10 francs on pain of imprisonment; the printed form notifying him of this penalty is stamped with a record that the payment was made on 1 May 1897. In January 1896 Einstein renounced his German citizenship and remained stateless until he applied for Swiss citizenship, which was granted in 1901.
Mileva, the daughter of a prosperous Serbian family, grew up in what was then the Austro-Hungarian empire. Even as a child, she was known as an excellent student, intelligent and serious, whose highest marks were in mathematics and physics. In 1892, at the petition of her father, a civil servant, she was admitted to the all-male Royal Classical High School in Zagreb, and also allowed by further special permission to attend the lectures in physics given there. Thus she became one of the first women in the Austro-Hungarian empire to sit in a high school classroom with her male peers. After graduating with the highest grades awarded in mathematics and physics, she continued her studies in Switzerland, where women were admitted to universities as regular students.
The first letter of the correspondence, from Mileva to Einstein, was written a year after their presumed first meeting, when she had taken a semester's leave of absence from the Zurich Polytechnic to attend lectures at the University of Heidelberg. Writing in response to a now-lost communication from Einstein, Mileva's letter reveals her wit, imagination and fascination with science: "It's been quite a while since I received your letter, and I would have answered immediately to thank you for your sacrifice in writing a four-page letter, thus repaying a bit of the enjoyment you gave me during our hike together -- but you said I shouldn't write until I was bored -- and I am very obedient...I waited and waited for boredom to set in, but until today my waiting has been in vain, and I'm not sure what to do about it." Her observations on the nature of space and infinity demonstrate her way of thinking: "I don't think the structure of the human skull is to be blamed for man's inability to understand the concept of infinity. He would certainly be able to understand it if, when young, and while developing his sense of perception, he were allowed to venture out into the universe rather than being cooped up on earth...If someone can conceive of infinite happiness, he should be able to comprehend the infinity of space -- I should think it much easier." And her description of the lectures she was attending portrays both enthusiasm and subtle humor: "It really was too enjoyable in Prof. Lenard's lecture yesterday; now he's talking about the kinetic theory of gases. [Philipp Lenard was later a determined opponent of Einstein and his theories.] It seems that oxygen molecules travel at a speed of over 400 m per second, and after calculating and calculating, the good professor set up equations, differentiated, integrated, substituted, and finally showed that the molecules in question actually do move at such a velocity, but that they only travel the distance of 1/100 of a hair's breadth" (Letter 1, after 20 October 1897).
In Zurich, Mileva and Einstein studied together, shared books and took class notes for each other. When urging her to return from Heidelberg, he offered his notebooks so that she could catch up with the courses she had skipped, although on at least one subsequent occasion he failed to leave his notes for her when she had requested their loan. Later he wrote letters of encouragement when she was studying for her examinations. Indeed, when Mileva sat examinations in the autumn of 1899, her score in physics was the same as Einstein's the year before. Although she was later to fall behind, this was due at least in part to her growing commitment to Einstein and to the extracurricular demands he made on her time.
The letters offer a vivid picture of Einstein living the carefree life of a student among like-minded fellows. He recorded conversations with friends, including Michele Besso, the only person whom he was to credit with assistance in developing the special theory of relativity: "We discussed the fundamental separation of luminiferous ether and matter, the definition of absolute rest, molecular forces, surface phenomena, dissociation" (Letter 26, 4 April 1901). There are also references to professors, especially Heinrich Weber, the physics professor whose lectures Einstein scorned but to whose laboratory he needed access. Einstein thought that Weber's lack of support made it difficult for him to find a job, and Mileva may have damaged her own position with the faculty by interceding on Einstein's behalf.
Einstein and Mileva spent much time together -- indeed, it is recorded that her roommates objected to his constant presence at their boarding house. They did not live in the same house, to avoid rumors, but Einstein from an early period referred to "our household" and called Mileva "the mistress of our house." There are many references to their drinking coffee together, and Einstein once wished, while on a visit to his parents, that he was back in Zurich eating sausages with Mileva. She cooked for him, as witnessed by a letter in which he described himself as "pound[ing] the books as usual while poor Dollie has to cook, and while lazy Johnnie lolls about after hastily obeying the rapidly uttered command: 'grind this'" (Letter 21, 13? September 1900). She also knitted him a pair of socks: "I'm finally sending you the sketch of my gigantic little foot that I keep forgetting to send. Since you have such a great imagination and are accustomed to astronomical distances, I think the adjoining work of art will suffice" (ibid.). When Einstein looked forward to their future, he saw it in these rosy terms: "Pleasant work and being together...Who could have it any better? When we have scraped together enough money, we can buy bicycles and take a bike tour every couple of weeks" (Letter 22, 19 September 1900). "We'll be students (horribile dictu) as long as we live and won't give a damn about the world" (Letter 45, 12 December 1901).
Intimations of Relativity
Einstein's letters to Mileva repeatedly comment on his current scientific reading and his analysis of it. During their student years she was his intellectual confidante, the first person to share his ideas, the one with whom he most often argued out his scientific thoughts. THE LETTERS TO MILEVA CONTAIN THE FIRST WRITTEN EXPRESSIONS OF THE THEORIES THAT WOULD BE EXPRESSED IN EINSTEIN'S EARLY PUBLICATIONS AND THAT WERE TO MAKE HIM FAMOUS. As early as 1899 he offered evidence of a serious effort to come to terms with the questions that would be answered by the theory of relativity: "I returned the Helmholtz volume [which he had borrowed earlier and had promised to read with Mileva] and am now rereading Hertz's propagation of electric force with great care because I didn't understand Helmholtz's treatise on the principle of least action in electrodynamics. I'm convinced more and more that the electrodynamics of moving bodies as it is presented today doesn't correspond to reality, and that it will be possible to present it in a simpler way. The introduction of the term 'ether' into theories of electricity has led to the conception of a medium whose motion can be described, without, I believe, being able to ascribe physical meaning to it. I think that electrical forces can be directly defined only for empty space, something also emphasized by Hertz" (Letter 8, 10? August 1899). And in 1901 he reported: "I'm busily at work on an electrodynamics of moving bodies, which promises to be quite a capital piece of work. I wrote to you that I doubted the correctness of the ideas about relative motion, but my reservations were based on a simple calculational error. Now I believe in them more than ever" (Letter 46, 17 December 1901). THESE IDEAS ABOUT ELECTRODYNAMIC THEORY, THE NON-EXISTENCE OF THE ETHER AND RELATIVE MOTION "LIE AT THE HEART OF HIS 1905 PAPER EXPLAINING SPECIAL RELATIVITY...[IN WHICH] EINSTEIN WAS TO DEMOLISH THE 300-YEAR-OLD FOUNDATIONS OF NEWTONIAN PHYSICS" (Highfield and Carter, p. 50).
During his student years Einstein also analyzed aspects of thermoelectricity, on which he proposed to write a dissertation, capillarity, the subject of his first published article, and other subjects, such as physical chemistry, the kinetic energy of heat, latent and specific heat, molecular forces and the relation between light and energy. THE LETTERS ARE FILLED WITH EXPLANATIONS OF EINSTEIN'S EARLY SCIENTIFIC IDEAS, OFTEN ACCOMPANIED BY FORMULAS OR EQUATIONS, AND REFERENCES TO POSSIBLE PROOFS BY EXPERIMENTATION. They also report on his reading and his reactions to it, for example: "I can easily explain why I'm unhappy about [Max] Planck's ideas on the nature of radiation. Planck assumes that a very specific kind of resonator...causes the conversion of the radiation energy, an assumption that I have difficulty accepting" (Letter 27, 10 April 1901). SINCE EINSTEIN'S FIRST PUBLICATIONS CONTAIN VERY FEW CITATIONS OF THE WORK OF OTHER SCIENTISTS, THE REFERENCES CONTAINED IN THESE LETTERS IDENTIFY SOME OF THE WORKS THAT MAY HAVE INFLUENCED HIS EARLY DEVELOPMENT.
Einstein in Love
In 1900 Einstein and Mileva began addressing each other as "Du," the familiar form of "you" in German, rather than continuing to use the formal "Sie" they had employed earlier. They also adopted nicknames for one another, "Doxerl" or "Dollie" for her, "Johonzel" or "Johnny" for him. Diminutives and terms of endearment proliferate in the correspondence from this time on, especially in Einstein's letters, which were addressed to "My dear Dollie," "My sweet little one," "My dear kitten," "My dearest little child," and most frequently "My dear sweetheart." For example: "My dear Dollie, I don't want to go to bed without answering your dear little letter...a most sweet little letter. Once again, I'm looking forward to seeing my dear Dollie on Sunday. Cheer up and don't worry -- you are my best and dearest sweetheart, come what may" (Letter 35, second half of May? 1901). And: "I can't wait until I have you again, my everything, my little so-and-so, my street urchin, my little rascal!" (Letter 22, 19 September 1900).
The twenty-one-year-old Einstein also addressed Mileva from time to time in German doggerel:
"Oh my! That Johnnie boy!
So crazy with desire,
While thinking of his Dollie,
His pillow catches fire."
(Letter 19, 20 August 1900)
"My little Dollie's beak,
It sings so sweet and fine;
And afterwards I cheerfully
Close its song with mine."
His letters to her, written mostly while he was visiting his parents, speak of how he misses her and, at the same time, give a sense of their relationship. "When I'm not with you I feel as if I'm not whole..." (Letter 16, 6 August 1900). "How was I able to live alone before, my little everything? Without you I lack self-confidence, passion for work, and enjoyment of life -- in short, without you, my life is no life" (Letter 18, 14? August 1900). "Without the thought of you I would no longer want to live among this sorry herd of humans. But having you makes me proud, and your love makes me happy. I will be doubly happy when I can press you close to my heart once again and see those loving eyes which shine for me alone, and kiss your sweet mouth which trembles blissfully for me alone" (Letter 20, 30 August or 6 September 1900). "I'm so lucky to have found you, a creature who is my equal, and who is as strong and independent as I am!" (Letter 23, 3 October 1900).
Mileva, whose native language was not German, imitated and even surpassed her lover's habit of using diminutives: "My dear Johnnie, I received your dear little letter today...I also wrote you a little card yesterday...And you have so much love for your Dollie, and you long for her so! She's always so happy with your little letters full of passionate love, showing her that you are once again her dear sweetheart, and my God! [Gotterl] what sweet little kisses she's saved for you!" (Letter 31, 3 May 1901). "My God, how beautiful the world will look when I'm your little wife, you'll see. there will be no happier woman in the whole world -- in which case the man must also be happy" (Letter 34, second half of May? 1901).
Einstein's parents did not approve of the match. Not only was Mileva older than Einstein. She was a Serb and limped from a congenital dislocation of the hip. The letters Einstein wrote her during visits home are all too explicit as to his parents' views. When he announced his intention of marrying, his mother accused him of ruining his future and destroying his opportunities. No decent family would have Mileva, and if she were to get pregnant, he would really be in trouble. After he had assured his mother that he and his lover were not living in sin, she countered -- and Einstein reported with unnecessary candor: "Like you, she is a book -- but you ought to have a wife...By the time you're 30 she'll be an old witch" (Letter 14, 29(?) July 1900).
"Our Dear Lieserl"
In fact, they were "living in sin." In January 1902 Mileva gave birth to a daughter, Lieserl, whose existence was unknown until the discovery of these letters.
The first reference to the child occurs in May 1901, when Einstein wrote reassuringly that he would not leave Mileva and that everything would turn out happily. "You'll see that my arms aren't so bad to rest in, even if things are beginning a little awkwardly. How are you, darling? How's the boy?" (Letter 36, 28? May 1901). Einstein, who had obtained his diploma from the Polytechnic, but who had not been able to find a job, took temporary position teaching in Winterthur and Schaffhausen. Mileva travelled to Stein am Rhein, where she could be disceetly near him during the autumn, but found that Einstein had little time to give her, even on weekends. Almost a third of her surviving letters to him date from this period, when she reproached him for not visiting her on Sundays. She also asked him to write to her parents but not to tell his family anything about her. In December 1901, when the pregnancy was far advanced she returned to her parents' home, where the child, named Lieserl, was born in January 1902. Einstein's letters were solicitous: "The only problem that still needs to be resolved is how to keep our Lieserl with us; I wouldn't want to have to give her up" (Letter 45, 12 December 1901). "I want so much to be with you, even if you do have a 'funny figure' as you've already written twice. Make me a drawing of it, a really pretty one!" (Letter 46, 17 December 1901). After the birth he wrote with seeming enthusiasm: "...now you see that it really is a Lieserl, just as you'd wished. Is she healthy, and does she cry properly? What are her eyes like? Which one of us does she more resemble? Who is giving her milk? Is she hungry? she must be completely bald. I love her so much and don't even know her yet! Couldn't you have a photograph made of her when you've regained your health?" (Letter 49, 4 February 1902).
The child never lived with her parents, and it is not known whether Einstein ever saw her. He never spoke of her, and there are no references to her in his papers other than the few passages in these letters. When Mileva returned to Switzerland some months after the birth, she came alone. She and Einstein were married on 6 January 1903, and a son, Hans Albert, was born on 14 May 1904. Einstein's last reference to Lieserl occurs in the last letter of this collection, written when Mileva was presumably in Novi Sad: "I'm not the least bit angry that poor Dollie is hatching a new chick. In fact, I'm happy about it and had already given some thought to whether I shouldn't see to it that you get a new Lieserl...I'm very sorry about what has befallen Lieserl. It's so easy to suffer lasting effects from scarlet fever...As what is the child registered? We must take precautions that problems don't arise for her later" (Letter 54, 19(?) September 1903). It has not been possible to discover Lieserl's fate, despite intensive searches by the editors of the Einstein papers and others. Perhaps an adoption was arranged by Mileva's friend Helene Savic, as suggested by a passage in which Mileva pointed out to Einstein that "We must treat her well because she can help us with something important" (Letter 43, 13 November 1901). Einstein may have believed that Lieserl survived; in the 1930s, when an impostor presented herself to a number of his friends and colleagues claiming to be his daughter, Einstein himself took the matter seriously enough to call in a private detective to investigate the claim.
In the Shadow of Albert Einstein
Since the rediscovery of the love letters of Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric, much attention has been given to the question of Mileva's own accomplishments and her role in Einstein's scientific achievements. The letters document not only Einstein's scientific thinking during the period 1897-1903 but also Mileva's role as his intellectual partner. For example, he wrote to her: "On the investigation of the Thomson effect I have again resorted to a different technique which is similar to our method for determining the dependence of k on T and which also presupposes such an investigation. If only we could start tomorrow!" (Letter 20, 30 August or 6 September 1900). "I'm also looking forward to working on our new papers. You must continue with your investigations -- how proud I will be to have a little Ph.D. for a sweetheart, while I remain a completely ordinary person!" (Letter 21, 13? September 1900). "As for science, I came up with a wonderful idea that allows one to apply our theory of molecular forces to gases as well" (Letter 28, 15 April 1901). "When you're my dear little wife we'll diligently work on science together so we don't become old philistines, right?" (Letter 48, 28 December 1901). And: "I'll be so happy and proud when we are together and can bring our work on relative motion to a successful conclusion!" (Letter 25, 27 March 1901).
What did Mileva contribute to Einstein's work? She has been described as "the woman who did Einstein's math" (Troemel-Ploetz, relying on statements reported by Trbuhovic-Gjuric). There is some evidence that during their married years she checked or assisted with his calculations, and it is true that throughout his career Einstein collaborated with mathematicians who worked on the calculations supporting his theories; however, as Pais has pointed out, "Einstein himself was perfectly capable of handling the mathematics he needed" (Einstein Lived Here, p. 15). Others have claimed that after Einstein's marriage to Mileva ended his physics became conservative, and have supposed that "those most basic capricious ideas that were the turning points of relativity theory came from Mileva, while the mathematics and proofs came largely from Albert" (Walker, p. 11). John Stachel, a former editor of the Einstein papers and these love letters, characterizes Mileva's letters as depicting an eager, hard-working student, but one who showed no spark of scientific originality. Mileva, he argues, "seems to have encouraged and helped Einstein in a number of ways during their years together, notably as the alter ego to whom he could express his ideas freely while developing them in isolation from the physics community. She also appears to have helped by looking up data, suggesting proofs, checking calculatons, and copying some of his notes and manuscripts. He never publicly acknowledged this help, nor did a true collaboration ever develop" (Stachel, p. 217). Gerald Holton, an advisor to the Einstein Papers Project, gives a more generous assessment of Mileva's role, while also recognizing its limitations: "...SHE WAS ONE OF THE PIONEERS IN THE MOVEMENT TO BRING WOMEN INTO SCIENCE, EVEN IF SHE DID NOT REAP ITS BENEFITS. At great personal sacrifice, as it later turned out, she seems to have been essential to Albert during the onerous years of his most creative early period, not only as an anchor of his emotional life, but also as a sympathetic companion with whom he could sound out his highly unconventional ideas duriung the years when he was undergoing the quite unexpected, rapid, metamorphosis from eager student to a first-rank scientist" (Holton, p. 71).
Publication: The contents of this lot have been published in German and in English in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein, vol. 1 and 5 (Princeton, 1987-93). A second English translation, edited by Jürgen Renn and Robert Schulmann, Albert Einstein-Mileva Maric: The Love Letters (Princeton, 1992), is the one cited here with the permission of the publisher. Letter 53 of the Renn-Schulmann edition, a 3-line autograph postcard signed, from Mileva Einstein-Maric to Albert Einstein, 27 August 1903, is in the Brandeis University Library.