Albert Einstein’s marriages, children and family life, were as extraordinary, controversial and unorthodox as the rest of his life, and just as complex.
By the time Einstein was 17, he had already fallen in love with Maria Winteler, the daughter of a family that he was boarding with. As it turned out, his decision to renounce his citizenship in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg, and his move to the Polytechnic in Zurich in 1896, ended the relationship forever. This move, however painful, kept young Albert from being pressed into military service, and his lost love eventually moved to Switzerland to teach.
While at the Polytechnic, he soon met another young woman, who was not only appealing, but close to his intellectual equal. Mileva Maric, had also enrolled at the Polytechnic to study mathematics and physics, the only woman in the program. Their relationship grew to include more than just their scholastic interests. By 1900, Einstein had graduated, and by 1902, he and Mileva had a daughter they named Lieserl.
Lieserl was born in 1902, a year before Albert and Mileva were married, in Novi Sad, Serbia, where Mileva’s parents lived. For awhile there was some doubt as to whether she ever truly existed, since she disappeared from all records after 1903. However, letters between her parents confirmed that she had indeed been born, and that they were thrilled at having a daughter. The last mention of her was in a letter from Albert, discussing her scarlet fever. Speculations about her fate have been discussed for decades. Some believe that she was adopted out to a cousin, and that she had been born blind. Others are convinced that she never survived her illness. It seemed highly unlikely that she was given up for adoption since in all of Einstein’s letters to Mileva, he professed his love and excitement over the daughter that he had never seen.
In January, 1903, Mileva and Albert were married, and in 1904, Mileva gave birth to a son, Hans Albert, who was born in Bern, Switzerland. A second son, Eduard was born in Zurich, July, 1910.
For whatever reason, Albert decided to leave his young family in Zurich, while he moved to Berlin in 1914, and by February, 1919, they divorced. They had been separated for five years.
Four months after his divorce, Einstein married Elsa Einstein Lowenthal, on June 2, 1919. They had been together since 1912, even before his move to Berlin. Elsa’s mother and Albert’s were sisters, making them first cousins, and their father’s were first cousins, so they were closely related on both sides of their family. They had known each other since childhood, however, Elsa had married Max Lowenthal and had two daughters, Ilse and Margot. She and Max were divorced in 1908.
Einstein adopted Elsa’s daughters. They changed their name to Einstein, and were, by all accounts a close family.
By 1933, Albert and Elsa emigrated to Princeton, New Jersey and bought a house, where they lived until her death in 1936.
Einstein’s oldest son, Hans Albert became a Professor at University of California Berkeley, and had a son who became a physicist.
Eduard, the second son, was brilliant and talented. He was on his way to becoming a psychiatrist, until, at the age of twenty, he developed schizophenia, and was institutionalized. His mother took care of him until her death in 1948, and he lived the rest of his life at a clinic in Zurich. His father had very little to do with him after his illness.
As with many Intellectuals, the everyday realm of marriage and children seemed to be too much for Einstein, but he left a legacy of descendants that inherited his intellect.