John Stachel examines the claims about Abraham Joffe in his Introduction to Einstein's Miraculous Year: Five Papers that Changed the Face of Physics, Princeton University Press, 2005, pp. liv-lxxii, (published here by permission of the author).
Now I must reluctantly turn to the claim, cited at the beginning of the last section, that "Maric [sic], a brilliant mathematician, collaborated with [Einstein] on three famous works: Brownian Motion, Special Relativity Theory and Photoelectric Effect." Believe me, it is not with any pleasure that I turn to this task. I am fully aware of the truth in the observation of a nineteenth-century Danish diplomat "Denials never have the charm or the impact of false reports." But this book would not appear in Einstein's name alone if there were any credible evidence for such claims.
The claim that "Maric [was] a brilliant mathematician" must be set against the fact that she took the final examinations at the Poly twice, and each time failed because of her low grades in mathematics. But this would be beside the point if we had any evidence that she "collaborated with [Einstein] on three famous works: Brownian Motion, Special Relativity Theory and Photoelectric Effect." The only evidence offered for the claim on the PBS Web site is the following statement:
But there is at least one printed report in which Joffe ["Abram Joffe (Ioffe), a respected member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences"] declared that he personally saw the names of two authors on the 1905 papers: Einstein and Marity (a Hungarianized form of Maric).
What evidence is given for this claim? On the same page of the Web site is an illustration of a part of a text in Russian, with the caption: "Old Russian journal citing Einstein‑Marity (Maric) as co-authors of the 1905 papers." No sources are cited for this claim beyond the illustration.
In fact, the illustration is not from an article by Joffe, not from "an old Russian journal," and does not cite Einstein and Marić as "co-authors of the 1905 papers." The "printed report" by Joffe is a 1955 article in the Soviet journal Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, which also does not cite Einstein and Marić as "co‑authors of the 1905 papers."
The illustration is actually from page 57 of a popular-science book by Daniil Semenovich Danin, Neizbezhnost strannogo mira, published in 1962 by the Molodaia Gvardii [Young Guard] publishers in Moscow. The text of the relevant passage reads, in English translation:
The unsuccessful teacher, who, in search of a reasonable income, had become a third class engineering expert in the Swiss Patent Office, this yet completely unknown theoretician in 1905 published three articles in the same volume of the famous "Annalen der Physik" signed "Einstein-Marity" (or Marić – which was his first wife's family name).
This English translation is taken from a book by Christopher Jon Bjerknes. The Russian text is reproduced on page 196 of the book, and comparison with the illustration on the Web site, which is the same as that used on the PBS television program, establishes that this is indeed the "old Russian journal" cited.
Now, the articles were presumably not signed "Einstein-Marity" and Einstein-Marić – so which was it? Danin obviously has no clue how they were signed. He is merely amplifying a story picked up somewhere else – indeed from Joffe, as we shall see in a moment. As far as I know, Danin's text was first cited in print in connection with a discussion of Einstein and Marić by Margarete Maurer. Neither Bjerknes nor Maurer can be regarded as biased in favor of Albert Einstein (I would say quite the contrary), but she states, "The page copied from Danin's work still does not indeed represent a historical 'proof,'" and proceeds to suggest that it probably originated from Joffe's reminiscences, which were not available to her at the time.
Indeed, if one looks at the passage from Joffe, it is clear that it is the source of Danin's assertions, so let us turn to this passage. In English translation, it reads:
For physics and especially for the physics of my generation – that of Einstein's contemporaries, Einstein's entrance into the arena of science is unforgettable. In 1905, three articles appeared in the "Annalen der Physik", which began three very important branches of 20th century physics. Those were the theory of Brownian motion, the photon theory of light, and the theory of relativity. The author of these articles – an unknown person at that time, was a bureaucrat at the Patent Office in Bern, Einstein-Marity (Marity – the maiden name of his wife, which by Swiss custom is added to the husband's family name).
Again, the translation (slightly modified in the descriptions of the three papers) is from the book by Bjerknes, pages 195-196; the Russian original is given on page 196. We see that all Danin adds to the statements by Joffe is the well-known fact that Einstein was a third class engineering expert at the Patent Office; and the addition after Einstein-Marity, "(or Marić -- which was his first wife's family name)," a circumstance to which we shall return below.
Why did the producers of the PBS show and the authors of the Web site choose to show an excerpt from Danin and not from Joffe? One can only speculate; but it is noteworthy that, although he says nothing about two authors, Danin does use the phrase "signed" while Joffe does not. The text cited above is all there is in the original article by Joffe that bears on the question of authorship of the three 1905 articles. To summarize, he states that their author was someone working at the Swiss Patent Office, whose name was "Einstein-Marity (note again that the phrase "or Marić" does not occur in Joffe).
All further claims about Joffe on the PBS program and Web site are actually based on the assertions of Desanka Trbuhović-Gjurić in her biography of Marić:
The distinguished Russian physicist Abraham F. Joffe (1880-1960) pointed out in his "In Remembrance of Albert Einstein" that Einstein's three epochal articles in Volume 17 of "Annalen der Physik" of 1905 were originally signed "Einstein-Marić.
Note that this is not what Joffe says, which is: "The author of these articles… was… Einstein-Marity." He makes no claim about the signature, and certainly not about having seen the original signature. But let us go on with the quotation from Trbuhović-Gjurić:
Joffe had seen the originals as Assistent to Röntgen, who belonged to the Board of the "Annalen," which had examined submitted contributions for editorial purposes. Röntgen showed his summa cum laude student this work, and Joffe thereby came face to face with the manuscripts, which are no longer available today.
Trbuhović-Gjurić offers no documentation of, or other justification for, her two claims that (1) Röntgen had the original manuscripts, and that (2) he then showed them to Joffe; nor, when she was later interviewed by Robert Schulmann, one of the editors of the Einstein Papers, was she able to offer any further evidence beyond the reference to a microfilm of an article, which her son subsequently stated was the "article" by Danin (see the discussion in Maurer, cited above). Note that, if the first claim by Trbuhović-Gjurić fails, the second fails as an immediate consequence. So let us start by looking at the second claim, for the moment "bracketing" the truth of the first.
If the second claim were correct, it is hard to see why Joffe never mentioned this most interesting and unusual fact during the fifty‑five years between 1905 and his death in 1960. Why did he not mention it in the 1955 article? And why not in his autobiographical memoir, which has a chapter on Einstein? But he never claimed in print that he saw the original manuscript -- nor did anyone else until after Joffe's death. If the memory stayed so vivid in his mind that he remembered the name "Einstein-Marity" correctly fifty years after having last seen it, why did he never mention the fact, even when he published his two reminiscences of Einstein? The simplest explanation of why he never claimed to have seen the manuscripts is that he never did.
Of course the very possibility of the second claim depends entirely on the validity of the first. If Röntgen had examined the three papers in manuscript form, it is curious that he waited until September 1906 to write to Einstein asking for reprints of his papers on electrodynamics to add to his (Röntgen's) collection of papers on this topic. He adds that he has been concerned with Brownian motion for some time and is thus familiar with Einstein's work on this topic, and does not ask for a reprint of this work. This contrast suggests that Röntgen was not familiar with Einstein's work on electrodynamics in late 1906, casting doubt on the first part of Trbuhović‑Gjurićs claim. And why should Paul Drude, the editor of the Annalen in 1905 and the author of two books and numerous articles on electromagnetic theory and optics, have needed to call upon Röntgen, an experimentalist in Munich, to vet Einstein's purely theoretical manuscripts? That Drude was familiar with, and positively evaluated, Einstein's electrodynamics paper is evident from Drude's citations of the relativity paper twice in print before he died in 1906.
Drude's advisor on theoretical physics papers for the Annalen was Max Planck, whom Einstein's sister credits with sending Einstein the first written reaction from a physicist to his 1905 relativity paper. Here is what the foremost account of the development of theoretical physics in Germany has to say about the editorial practices of the Annalen der Physik during the years around 1905:
At the same time  he [Planck] acquired an official responsibility for theoretical physics for all of Germany, replacing Helmholtz as the designated advisor on matters of theoretical physics for the Annalen der Physik… When in 1900 Drude became editor of the Annalen der Physik, Planck continued on as advisor. Their working relationship was good, even if Planck was not always kept as informed as he wished.
As the advisor on theoretical physics for the Annalen der Physik, in 1905 Planck was already familiar with Einstein's work. For five years, Einstein had regularly submitted papers to this journal, the most important of which treated thermodynamics and statistical physics, subjects of particular interest to Planck at the time. Einstein extended these studies to a related interest of Planck's, black body radiation, in 1905.
Einstein's relativity theory of the same year set Planck to work; it was the subject, Max Born observed, that "caught Planck's imagination more than anything else."
When confronted with these circumstances, defenders of the claims put forward by Trbuhović-Gjurić usually counter with the question: How else could Joffe have known that "Marity" was the form of her name that Marić sometimes used? For example, Evan Walker Harris (one of those interviewed on the PBS program) states that "Joffe would only have known had he seen the original signed by her, since this usage of 'Mariti' apparently is not to be found in any of the Einstein biographies. This last statement is incorrect. The second edition of Carl Seelig's well‑known biography of Einstein, published the year before Joffe's article, gives her name as "Mileva Maric [sic] oder Marity".
But whether or not "this usage" of Marity is to be found in any other of the Einstein biographies, there could well be other published sources, in which Joffe could have found this fact. "Marity" is, after all, the form in which her name appears on their marriage certificate, and this fact might have been picked up by some other writer about Einstein. A careful search would have to be conducted of the literature about Einstein in several languages, including Russian, before a valid judgment could be passed on the question of where Joffe could have found the information. I myself would hazard the guess that Joffe saw this form of her name in some document published right after Einstein's death. If he had only seen it some fifty years earlier, it is hard to explain how he was able to reproduce the exact form of the name in 1955.
But even aside from a source in print, there is always the possibility that he heard it from someone. One intriguing possible explanation of how Joffe might have heard it is from Mrs. Einstein herself! In Joffe's book of reminiscences, there is a chapter on Einstein. It does not include the story about having seen "Einstein-Marity" on the 1905 papers; but it does include an account of a meeting with Einstein's wife in 1905.
I wanted very much to talk to Einstein about all these questions and, together with my friend Wagner, visited him in Zurich. But we did not find him at home and so did not succeed in talking to him. However his wife told us that, as he himself expressed it, he is only a Patent Office clerk, and cannot think seriously about science, much less about experiments.
This is a curious story in many ways: when he worked at the Patent Office, Einstein and Marić were in Bern of course and not Zurich. And if Marić really reported his own words to them as cited here, it would appear that she was being ironic. Of course, it is possible that Joffe remembered incorrectly many details of a visit that had taken place fifty-odd years earlier. But if there is any grain of truth to the story (and if we are going to deny any grain of truth to Joffe's stories, we might as well throw out the first one about "Einstein-Marity along with this one), then he may have picked up "Marity" from Mrs. Einstein herself during their conversation – or even from the name on the apartment doorbell – and later added some garbled information about Swiss customs for the names of married couples.
Perhaps even more likely is the possibility that Joffe learned about the name Marity from Paul Ehrenflest. He was friendly with Ehrenfest for decades, and the published correspondence between them covers the years from 1907 until the latter's untimely death. Ehrenfest had been well acquainted with both Einstein and Marić since about 1911 or 1912, and could easily have been the source of some information about Marić's name that Joffe remembered years later in garbled form.
But let us suppose – contrary to all these arguments – that Trbuhović‑Gjurić's two claims were valid. How do we pass from these claims – that the papers had one signature (Einstein-Marity) – to the claim that this one signature represents two authors? The three papers in question contain many authorial comments in the first person singular. One example from each paper follows (italics added):
In this paper I wish to present the train of thought and cite the facts that led me onto this path ... (this volume, p. 178).
It is possible that the motions to be discussed here are identical with so-called Brownian molecular motion; however, the data available to me on the latter are so imprecise that I could not form a judgment on the question (this volume, p. 85).
In conclusion, let me note that my friend and colleague M. Besso steadfastly stood by me in my work on the problem discussed here, and that I am indebted to him for several valuable suggestions (this volume, p. 159).
Of course, this does not settle the question of who did the work. But it does show that the articles were written with one authorial voice, and so does seem to settle the question of whether the work was submitted with two named authors -- unless we are to believe that the editors of the Annalen not only removed one of the named authors, but carefully changed all uses of the first person plural to first person singular!
We have seen that, in order to give credence to Trbuhović-Gjurić's claims, we are forced to pile one improbability upon another: the improbability of Röntgen having had the manuscript, the improbability that Joffe saw it, the improbability that his assertion that the papers were written by one person should be interpreted as meaning they were written by two people. The simplest and most natural course is to reject all of these implausible claims.
116. http://www.pbs.org/opb/einsteinswife/science/mquest.htm. Unless otherwise noted, the source for all the following citations is the PBS Web site
117. A. E. Joffe, "Pamyati Alberta Eynshtyna," Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk 57 (1955). I cite this article from the reprint in Eynshtyn i sovremnwnaya fizika. Sbornik parnyati Eynshtyna (Moscow: GTTI, 1956), pp. 20-26; the reference to "Eynshtyn-Mariti" is on p. 21. 1 thank Dr. Gennady Gorelik for his help in finding this reference.
118.Albert Einstein: The Incorrigible Plagiarist (Downers Grove, Ill.: XTX Inc., 2002), p. 197.
119. In an article entitled "Weil nicht sein kann, was nicht sein darf… 'DIE ELTERN ODER 'DER VATER' DER RELATIVITATSTHEORIE," which originally appeared in Birgit Kanngiesser et al., eds., Dokumentation des 18. Bundesweiten Kongresses von Frauen in Naturwissenschaft und Technik vom 28-31. Mai 1992 in Bremen (Bremen: n.p., nd), pp. 276-295, since reprinted in various versions and available at
for the first part (to access the second and third parts, and the bibliography, substitute the numbers 2, 3, and 4, respectively, for the number 1 in the Web address). This is the version that I am citing.
120.Bjerknes, Albert Einstein: The Incorrigible Plagiarist, p. 197. The German text from which this was translated appears on p. 198 and is taken from Desanka Trbuhović-Gjurić, Im Schatten Albert Einsteins/Das tragische Leben der Mileva Einstein-Marić (Bern: Paul Haupt, 1983), which is a German translation of the Serbian original.
122. Vstrechi s fizikami, nwi vosporninaniia o zarubezhnykh fizikah [Meetings with Physicists, My Reminiscences of Physics Abroad] (Moscow: Gusudarstvennoye Izdatelstvo Fiziko-Maternatitsheskoi Literatury, 1962).
123. See Collected Papers, vol. 2, p. xxx.
124. Christa Jungnickel and Russell McCormmach, Intellectual Mastery of Nature, vol. 2, The Now Mighty Theoretical Physics, 1870‑1925 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 254-255, 309, and 248.
125. "Mileva Marićs Relativistic Role," letter in Physics Today (February 199l): 122.
126. Seelig, Albert Einstein/Eine dokumentarische Biographie, p. 29. The English edition, with the corresponding passage, did not appear until 1956; see Seelig, Albert Einstein/A Documentary Biography, p. 24.
127. See note 122. I have consulted the German edition, Begegnungen mit Physikern (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1967).
128. Ibid., pp. 88-89.
129. See Ehrenfest-Ioffe Nauchnaya perepiska, 1907-1933 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1973). Dr. Gennady Gorelik kindly informed me that there is no mention of Mileva Marić in this correspondence.