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Bias in the Book: “The Other Einstein”


In the historical novel, The Other Einstein, the author, Marie Benedict, tells the story of Albert Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Marić Einstein. Benedict claims that Miss Mileva is Einstein’s equal in the field of science. She contributes to Einstein’s breakthrough 1905 paper on relativity, but places herself second to Einstein. She overcame tremendous odds in order to become a scientist, especially as a handicapped girl. Miss Marić was born in 1875 in Titel, Serbia. With education, Miss Marić faced an incredible amount of bias. She is bullied in elementary school because of her limp.

However, she didn’t hide her intelligence.

Her father had to convince the government to let her into the boys only high school. At the time, it was illegal for girls to go to high school in Croatia. While in high school, she is harassed and assaulted for speaking up in class. In college, her teachers were rather rude and embarrassed her in front of the class. All the schools she attended after elementary were primarily male. College included fewer girls in general. In Science, Miss Marić’s chosen field, she was the only female. When Miss Marić meets Einstein, the author first floats the idea that he will solve all of Miss Marić’s problems. In the beginning, he is very supportive of her. However, the author takes the story of Marić and Einstein’s marriage and ensuing divorce down an unfortunate, sad path.

The reader believes that Einstein is the cause of Marić’s failure to achieve success.

In chapter 5 of The Other Einstein, the author shows how difficult it is for Miss Marić while going through school. Raising her hand could not be done without the fear of being hurt or threatened.

“Why was it so hard for me to raise my hand? I’ve done it several times before, although not easily. I shook my head slightly as a recollection took hold of me. I was 17, and I just left my first physics class at the all-male Royal Classical High School in Zagreb, where papa managed to get me admitted after my time in Novi. Sad, despite a law prohibiting Austro-Hungarian girls from attending high school, by applying successfully to the authorities for an exemption. Relieved and thrilled with my first day-where I ventured to answer the instructor’s question and got it correct-I floated out of my classroom. (. . .) A man came behind me suddenly and pushed me down another more dimly lit hallway.

Was he in such a rush that he didn’t see me? (. . .)  The man was over a foot taller than me. He shoved me against the wall-my face smashed against it and away from his, so I could not identify him later-and held me down tightly. My arms burned. ‘You think you’re so smart. Showing off with that answer.’ He seethed, spit from his angry words spraying my one exposed cheek. ‘You should not even be allowed in our class. There’s a law against it.’ (. . .)  I realized that I was going to have to tamp down my intelligence and keep my smarts quiet too. Or risk everything”(53).

The author shows how dangerous and increasingly unwelcoming the educational environment is for  Miss Marić. The author makes a great effort to show the hostility aimed at Miss Marić. While proving how brave it is of Miss Marić to continue her education and get a degree. 

Benedict’s Bias

The author portrays Miss Marić as a victim and having the reader feel very sorry for her. Because this is a historical novel, Mr. Einstein’s behavior is fictitious. The author’s position is to support Miss Marić and it makes it very easy to not like Einstein and view him as a bad guy. Mr. Einstein and Miss Marić met in 1896 at their college in Switzerland. Mr. Einstein starts off by greeting her every morning and smiling at her which was very different from the behaviors of the other male students.

As Miss Marić and Mr. Einstein become friends, he compliments her on how smart she is and talks a lot about his bohemian ways. Assisting him with success and possibly introduce new ways of thinking and different points of view. As time goes on, Mr. Einstein’s good-nature slowly disappears and in its place comes manipulative. Miss Marić only sees the good in Mr. Einstein and starts to fall for both Mr. Einstein and the bohemian life-style he talks so much about.

On page 117, the text implies that Miss Marić is beginning to become very frustrated with Mr. Einstein, “I was frustrated that I’d had to endanger my own reputation because Albert had begun to skip Weber’s classes in order to study independently. Albert believed that together, he and I could solve major scientific riddles-but only if I went to class and took copious notes on Weber’s traditional topics while Albert stayed behind and caught up on newer physicists like Boltzmann and Helmholtz.

Albert’s scheme involved our collaboration and sharing of old and new theories, and we were currently exploring the nature of light and electromagnetism. I’d been an enthusiastic participant in this experiment as a modern, bohemian couple, even though it meant I stayed up into the night undertaking this double duty when I already had the extra work stemming from my time away in Heidelberg. Until now”(117).

Miss Marić is doing both hers and Mr. Einstein’s homework so that he can stay home and study new theories. All the while, she is behind on her own work. The text clearly says that Miss Marić enjoys her time with Mr. Einstein and his bohemian ways but the reality of the situation hits her hard.

Marie Benedict, in her fictionalized novel, goes to great lengths to make Albert Einstein a bad guy by fictionalizing and exaggerating his actions as selfish. Ultimately, according to Marie Benedict, Einstein’s early rise and success was at the expense of Miss Marić’s life and work. This was a great book to read but it is a fictionalized version of the truth and not the best book to use for school or research purposes.

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