Monday, October 17, 2016

A Brilliant Physicist Ignored by the World

In the late 1800s well brought up young women were expected to be wives and mothers, not scientists or mathematicians. Mileva (Mitza) Mari was a brilliant child. Teased by her classmates she gained strength from her father, who encouraged her desire to be a physicist. She gained a place at the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich where she studied physics and m
athematics, the only woman in her classes.

In Zurich, she boarded in a house with several other young women, who aspired to be scientists or teachers. For the first time, she had friends and enjoyed life. An impulsive, young man, Albert Einstein, barged into this existence. At first Mitza avoided him, but he drew her into a circle of scientists that she enjoyed, wooed her, and eventually, over her parents objections, they wed. But that’s not the end of the story. Married life was not kind to Mitza.

This fictionalized account of Einstein’s first wife is based on letters between the two and a letter between Mitza and her friend, Helene. Although there is no evidence to support the idea that they collaborated on scientific projects after they were married, the author takes the view that they did and that Mitza was partially responsible for Einstein’s ideas that led to his winning the Nobel Prize.

I enjoyed the book, but found it difficult to accept that Mitza was treated so badly by Einstein, more like a handmaiden than a collaborator. However, the author does an excellent job of bringing the scenes in Serbia and Zurich to life.

I recommend this book if you are interested in the woman behind the man. I reserve judgment on the accuracy of the portrayal, but it’s a well written book that presents a unique hypothesis.

I received this book from Sourcebooks for this review.