The Other Einstein

Written by Marie Benedict
Review by Ilysa Magnus

Mitza Marič is a brilliant young woman whose family struggles to get her accepted into and excel at Zurich’s elite Polytechnic, one of the few institutions of higher learning admitting women in the late 1890s. Mitza, a physicist-in-training, is a math genius who seeks to find a unifying explanation for how the world works. One of her classmates is Albert Einstein, who takes an immediate interest in her.  Why, Mitza asks, would he be interested in a dark-haired Serb with a limp?  Well, he is. And so their relationship begins to develop; they fall in love, they plan to marry, but Einstein can’t find a job. Mitza, now pregnant with their child, abandons her education.

Ultimately, they marry. Only after Mitza and Albert become what he tells her is “ein stein” – one stone, and Mitza partners with Albert on a theory of relativity which was her vision, does Albert’s academic career take off – at Mitza’s expense.  Benedict’s portrayal of Albert as a conniving, manipulative genius is marvelous. While Mitza tries to keep her family together after Albert co-opts her theories and publishes under his own name, intentionally denying her whatever recognition she would be entitled to, Albert becomes an abuser and an adulterer – an all-around not nice guy.

I found the scene between Madame Curie and Mitza particularly effective. Here is a Nobel laureate coming from much the same background as Mitza, making her realize that, had she had the kind of husband Pierre Curie was, Albert would have reveled in Mitza’s accomplishments and brilliance. Alas, for Mitza that was not to be. This is a tour de force giving real insight into a famous man and a woman who should have been.