Daily Archives: May 12, 2017

Einstein’s Triangle

I spent most of the day reading up on Albert Einstein and his relationship with Mileva Maric and Elsa Lowenthal. Some pretty interesting observations, although by no means do these explain anything.

  1. Albert and his girlfriend Mileva got pregnant shortly after Albert graduated from university, but this baby disappeared when Albert was 23 years old and his girlfriend Mileva was 27. They didn’t get married (in January of 1903) for at least a year after the disappearance of their daughter, who is said to either have been given up for adoption or died in infancy, although neither spoke of the situation. Mileva ended up having the baby by herself at her parent’s house in Novi Sad, Serbia (where she was from).
  2. Mileva failed the graduation exam in 1900 (which Albert passed) – and ended up staying in school and retaking the exam a year later (while three months pregnant). After Albert graduated, he couldn’t find a job for at least two years, and only secured a permanent position (at the patent office) in 1903 (when he was 24 years old).
  3. in 1902 (when he was 23) Albert formed a discussion group called “The Olympia Society” in which a core group of his friends got together to talk about philosophy and physics. His girlfriend and later wife would attend although not participate. The group lasted until 1905 – until the last of his friends had left Switzerland.
  4. During all of this time (from the above observations), from the moment that Albert graduated until 1905, he had been working on his PhD thesis. Not surprisingly, the year he received his thesis he also published a collage of reviews and scientific papers espousing specific theories he had been thinking about during his studies. This is apparent, as from 1900 until 1905 he only published 67 pages worth of papers, but in one year published a staggering 79 pages of papers and reviews. He married Mileva in 1903 (after securing his permanent job). It’s unclear if he started his PhD immediately after graduating or if he waited until he found his job at the patent office (in 1902, after the birth of his child).
  5. However, it wasn’t until he was 29 (in 1908) that he found a position teaching at the University of Bern. I’m unclear what exactly he did between getting his PhD and finding a position as a teacher, although it is clear that he spent a great amount of time writing and publishing articles with the Annalen der Physik. Unlike later publications, these were written papers and not lectures, so it seems he wasn’t teaching during this time.
  6. After he found a position teaching, many of his papers were either co-authored or were transcripts of actual talks and lectures he gave.
  7. Somehow (I’m still tracing together details), between 1914-1919 he and his wife had separated, finally divorcing in 1919. Their second son was born in 1910 (when Albert was 31). In 1910, he was already deeply unhappy with his marriage to Mileva, as he wrote to his “high school sweetheart” Marie and told her that he thought of her “every spare minute”. At this point, his older son was a toddler and his second son was a mewling baby. However, by 1914 he was so unhappy that he actually started a romantic liaison with his cousin Elsa (who was three years older than him).
  8. At this time, Elsa was raising two children on her own in Berlin, and when Albert and Mileva moved to Berlin in 1914 he must have immediately started spending time with her and her family (although he had been reaquainted with Elsa two years earlier). So shortly after moving to Berlin, Mileva took her children back to Zurich.
  9. In 1913, Mileva had her children baptized as Orthodox Christians, while Albert (to his death) remained nonreligious. Albert was raised by secular Jews, attended Catholic schools while growing up, although he did have great affinity for Jewish people. He claims to have been trained in both the Bible and the Talmud, which would have meant he either attended some kind of Jewish school outside of his elementary schools or his family practiced more than he ever admitted – or he self-trained himself (which is highly probable, given his personality).
  10. Strangest of all (for me) is that by the time his second wife had died (in 1936), he doesn’t appear to have reconnected in any significant fashion with his ex-wife, although his son (Hans Albert) moved to the United States 5 years from Switzerland after his father moved to the US in 1933 from Germany. Mileva, however, stayed in Zurich until her death.

My main concern in this investigation is to discover how his relationships with the three women in his life affected his research, as well as how the impact of the children in his life (his three children and Elsa’s two children) impacted him and affected his research. Elsa claims in an interview that he discovered relativity while locking himself in an upstairs room for two weeks, while she had to bring him food. I guess it’s nice to claim things like that, but the fact is he didn’t reconnect with Elsa until 1912, but he started writing about relativity in 1905 and published his first significant paper on general relativity in 1911. How much of Einstein is a myth (or ‘fake news’) is hard to glean immediately.

How he transformed from a very well-appreciated academic to a foofy-haired genius is still something I’m slightly confused about, but I’m guessing it had more to do with politics, the American media, and Albert’s controversial relationship with Robert Millikan (the president of Caltech, a deeply militaristic patriot, a fellow Nobel laureate, a military researcher who developed weapons for the US army during World War I, a eugenicist who believed in the greatness of Nordic civilization, and most famously a research who became famous because he ‘doctored’ the results of the experiment for which he was awarded the Nobel) as well as┬áhis relationship with many Hollywood elites (such as Charlie Chaplin) than it had to do with anything he actually wrote.

Published: May 12, 2017 | Comments: 0