Critical Comments on the film “Einstein’s Wife”
Below are the views on the “Einstein’s Wife” documentary by the three Einstein specialists who were misled into appearing in the film, and whose contributions were tendentiously edited by the writer/director Geraldine Hilton.
Gerald Holton (Physicist, historian of physics):
Dear Mr. Esterson,
I was glad to read of your interest in correcting the blatant perversion of the role of Mileva Maric in the Australian film, “Einstein’s Wife”. The essays on your website should be required reading by all who have been taken in by this film – the NPR officials, the unsuspecting readers of the story on the PBS website, the viewers of this pseudo-“documentary”, the helpless teachers who might fall for this lie.
I suspect the Australian film crew and producers may well have known that they were producing a sorry fiction. For example, when they asked me to be interviewed for the film, they only said it was going to be (yet another) film about Einstein. If they had told me what they really were intending, I would of course not have agreed to appear, and would have told them how wrong they were.
The film’s falsification of Maric’s role in the work of Einstein, well explained in your postings and in other sources by knowledgable historians of science, brings to mind two points: One is that if such a false product were published by a scientist, he or she would be deprived of eligibility of further funding, and (in the USA) punished by the Office of Research Integrity. As the recent unmasking of the South Korean biologist who falsified data shows, the same derogation would also be appropriate outside the USA. Equally bad is that the falsification of Maric’s role is really an insult to her. As I wrote (page 191, Einstein, History and other Passions, H.U.P. 2000, in Chapter 8) on the relationship between Mileva and Albert :
“Ironically, the exaggeration of Mileva’s scientific role, far beyond what she herself ever claimed or could be proved, only detracts both from her real and significant place in history, and from the tragic unfulfillment of her early hopes and promise. For she was one of the pioneers in the movement to bring women into science, even if she did not reap its benefits. At great personal sacrifice, as it later turned out, she seems to have been essential to Albert during the onerous years of his most creative early period, not only as anchor of his emotional life, but also as a sympathetic companion with whom he could sound out his highly unconventional ideas during the years when he was undergoing the quite unexpected, rapid metamorphosis from eager student to first-rank scientist.”
Good luck, and keep in touch.
John Stachel (Physicist, founding editor of the Albert Einstein Collected Papers):
Thanks for sending your articles. I admire you for having the guts to go through the whole series of entangled falsehoods, more the product of mendacity than innocent error: I particularly appreciate your account of how I was "set up" to be used as a foil for the "Joffe proof." What you may not know is that I was constantly reassured, in spite of my misgivings, by the Aussies who produced the show that it was not going to be tendentious in any way!
Robert Schulmann (Historian, associate editor Albert Einstein Collected Papers):
Dear Allen, looked again with some care at your sites, and am most impressed. Great work.
Below are the responses of the Einstein specialists John Stachel, Gerald Holton and Robert Schulmann, interviewees in "Einstein's Wife", to the statement made by writer/producer Geraldine Hilton to PBS in 2006 that they had "not come forward and claimed they were misrepresented":
Soon after "Einstein's Wife" was aired on PBS and after scrutinizing the PBS website dealing with the film, I wrote an email to the writer/producer, Ms. Geraldine Hilton, and her company, Melsa Productions. In it I expressed my anger at the distasteful manipulation of facts in which she had engaged. I never heard a word in response. Whatever her intentions, Ms. Hilton chose to misrepresent my comments in her film, adding insult to injury by crowing later that she had put one over on the Einstein scholars. Aside from the pettiness of this remark, I deeply resent how by misrepresentation and stripping of context Ms. Hilton's film skewed statements made by Holton, Stachel, and myself, as well as twisted facts, most egregiously in the case of the so-called Joffe evidence. This goes well beyond personal insult. It is unconscionable that PBS be a party to distributing this dishonest presentation as classroom material to teachers and students, whose task it is to instruct and learn the proper use of evidence and respect for historical sources. At the very least, I think PBS should withdraw its recommendation of the Hilton film - and the film itself - as the basis for school curricula. Whatever the agenda of Melsa Productions, falsehoods and shoddy research have no place in the public arena. After many years as a grateful consumer of Public Broadcasting Company programs, I am convinced that PBS shares this concern.
As to my 'not coming forward', as you report them to have said: I sure did, as many of my friends and colleagues will confirm. I told them how I felt to have been tricked into appearing in this awful film, because the film people said it was to be about Albert Einstein - not a word about his wife being made the main character, with entirely false claims. Thereby they also demeaned Mileva, about whose true, respectable role I and others have written.
I did make an attempt to contact PBS by email long ago, and also wrote an email directly to Geraldine Hilton, explaining that I felt I had been "set up" by her. I often expressed misgivings to her before and during the filming about how objective she would be, and she reassured me that the film would present both sides fairly; but now she boasts about her false pretences of innocence, just so that she could get and use a snippet from a long interview with me as a foil for a "rebuttal" in the film.
Note: Geraldine Hilton made the following statement in a newspaper interview on 20 April 2004 describing how the filmmakers behaved towards the Einstein specialists during the production of the film:
'She's just an Aussie director, what would she know', is what they'd think, We'd act dumb, we're just a couple of Aussie chicks and they'd think, 'what would they know'.
Website of Allen Esterson: