Did Albert Einstein really have a daughter named Lieserl?
Yes. She was born in January 1902, and she apparently became ill with scarlet fever in August 1903. The last hint about her life after that was in a letter Albert wrote Mileva, which said he was sorry about “what happened to Lieserl.” Then he added, “Scarlet fever often leaves some lasting traces behind. If only everything passes well. How is Lieserl registered? We must take great care, lest difficulties arise for the child in the future.”
What does that mean?
Experts aren’t sure. Some speculate that Lieserl might have been disabled, either from birth or because of the scarlet fever. Some also wonder if the Einsteins were preparing to have somebody else adopt Lieserl. Still others think that she probably died in the scarlet fever epidemic. In Albert’s letter, though, it certainly sounds as though he believed she was still alive in September 1903. No birth or death certificate for the little girl has ever been found.
How long did Albert and Mileva keep Lieserl secret?
There’s no indication that anyone in Albert’s family, or any of their friends in Switzerland, ever knew of the child’s existence. Mileva’s family knew, because Lieserl lived with them, and presumably at least some of their friends and neighbors might have known Lieserl’s story, too. But Albert Einstein wasn’t famous in 1902, so his connection wouldn’t have attracted the same kind of attention it would now. The news of Lieserl’s existence only became public with the release of some of Albert and Mileva’s private letters in the 1980s. Both Albert and Mileva were long dead by then.
Was the real Mileva Einstein like the Mileva in the book?
I tried to make her as realistic as possible, based on everything I read about her. She had once been a brilliant student. Sadly, because of discrimination and prejudices about females in early twentieth-century Europe, she had only a limited opportunity to use her talents. Her real life was full of struggles. I wish she’d had a time traveler like Jonah around to help her out!
Don’t you think Albert Einstein would have also noticed time travelers hanging out in his home?
I think he would be one of the last people to notice something like that. Albert Einstein is pretty much the reason we have a stereotype that geniuses are also absent-minded.