Cover image for Einstein's daughter : the search for Lieserl
Einstein's daughter : the search for Lieserl
Zackheim, Michele.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Riverhead Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
xiii, 301 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QC16.E5 Z33 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



In 1902, an illegitimate daughter was born to Albert Einstein. In 1903, she vanished. Now, almost a century later, Michele Zackheim follows a mystery that has bewildered Einstein scholars the world over. After five years of travel to Serbian villages wracked by years of strife, painstaking forays into the labyrinth of Central European record-keeping, and hundreds of kitchen-table conversations, Zackheim answers the question of what became of Lieserl Maric Einstein -- and offers a fascinating look into Albert Einstein's first marriage.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Love letters between Albert Einstein and his first wife, the Serbian physicist Mileva Maric, made public in 1986, confirmed the fact that the couple had a daughter before they were married. But what happened to baby Lieserl? Zackheim traveled to war-torn Serbia to find out, and her cogent and suspenseful chronicle portrays Maric as a woman caught between worlds. Encouraged to excel intellectually by her doting parents, Maric fell in love with her fellow student, Einstein, but neither family approved, and Einstein wouldn't defy his parents even after Maric became pregnant. They did eventually marry, and raised two sons, but Lieserl seems to have vanished, even though, as Zackheim was repeatedly told, no one, not even Einstein, could have induced Maric to give up her first-born. Zackheim followed every lead, until she found a convincing answer to the puzzle, and so wraps up a sorrowful story that reveals the callousness of a legendary scientist, and the terrible sacrifices made by the woman he scorned. --Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1986, Albert Einstein's granddaughter discovered a cache of love letters by the physicist and Mileva Maric, the Serbian woman who became his first wife. The letters disclosed that the couple had a daughter named Lieserl, born in 1902, a year before they married, but all traces of this infant daughterÄhitherto unknown to biographersÄdisappear after 1903. What became of Lieserl? Scholars have assumed that she was put up for adoption, but Zackheim, who went to Serbia and Germany to comb archives and to interview the Einsteins' surviving relatives, neighbors and associates, believes that Lieserl was born with a severe mental handicap and died of scarlet fever in infancy. Her thesis is intriguing but inconclusive, based on only a few witnesses' recollections. Writing elegantly, Zackheim does establish that Lieserl lived with Mileva's parents, and her remarkable sleuthing turns up new details of Einstein's personal life. In her withering, one-sided portrait, the great physicist, pacifist, freethinker and internationalist was a dictatorial, insulting, selfish, unfaithful spouse, a curmudgeon with a misanthropic streak. Einstein, by this account, emotionally abused his ailing first wife and virtually abandoned their two young sons after he divorced Mileva in 1919 so that he could marry his cousin Elsa five months later. Zackheim paints Einstein's second marriage as one of mere convenience, portraying him as a cold, distant mate, "a middle-aged Lothario" who "tended to have a few romances going at once." She also speculates, without evidence, that Einstein may have infected Mileva with syphilis, and that she could have passed it to Lieserl in utero, increasing the risk of mental retardation. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The personal life of Einstein, the century's most famous scientist, was indeed complex. In the mid-1980s, it was discovered that he and his first wife, Mileva Maric, had a daughter, Lieserl, prior to their marriage. With only a few scraps of information, Zackheim plunged deep into Serbian culture and customs as well as Einstein's and Maric's family histories to find out what became of Lieserl. After countless interviews and five years of research in the United States, Europe, and Serbia, Zackheim has produced a well-written and riveting story that demonstrates a thorough grasp of the subject. Along the way, she endured war and misleading information to stay ahead of fellow researchers. This combination of excellent historical research, mystery, and sleuthing is highly recommended for all collections.ÄMichael D. Cramer, Cigna Healthcare, Raleigh, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.