‘Lieserl’s fate shadows the Einstein legend like some unsolved equation’
Frederic Golden, Time Magazine
By Tim Symonds
The new “Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter” book is available from
In September 1903 a letter was sent from the Swiss city of Bern to a woman in the Serbian town of Novi Sad. The letter contained the last known reference to an infant girl born out of wedlock 21 months earlier. After that, with extreme diligence, any record of her existence is expunged.
This might be of minor interest to the outside world but for one reason: the father of this small child was Albert Einstein.
So far there are three theories trying to explain why the infant girl vanished. The first says Albert Einstein and the infant’s mother Mileva Marić must have asked a friend in Belgrade to adopt her. The second theory suggests she was left at a home for severely physically or mentally-handicapped children. The third theory holds she died of Scarlet Fever in the epidemic which killed 400 out of 1000 children in the Novi Sad area at the time.
In the following pages I offer my solution to the extraordinary mystery of the girl known as ‘Lieserl’. I call it the Fourth Theory. Some people reading the Fourth Theory will find the speculative verve deeply shocking, particularly those who resolutely wish to think of Einstein as a secular saint.
Why is the life or death of this infant girl a mystery in the first place? It is for one reason only. A ruthless effort was made by Albert Einstein and Mileva Marić, their friends, admirers and relatives, to destroy every document with Lieserl’s name on it. The mystery is – why?
It is possible someone one day will discover what happened to this half-Serbian half-German girl born in late January or early February 1902 but the difficulties are immense. They would challenge even Einstein’s fictional contemporary, the great Sherlock Holmes. For a start there is a problem with the name ‘Lieserl’. No birth certificate has ever been discovered, a search made more difficult because her real name cannot be surmised from this affectionate appellation. It is a diminutive equivalent to ‘Betty’ for ‘Elizabeth’, but it may have been used simply as a nickname for ‘girl’. Searching records for Erzsebeth or the Hungarian Erzsike could mean going down the wrong track.
After that last-known reference to her in a letter from Albert Einstein to Mileva Marić, the infant simply disappears. She left behind the greatest remaining mystery surrounding the greatest Physicist of the 20th Century.
Was the assault on every trace of her existence simply because the parents were not married at the time of Lieserl’s birth? At the start, perhaps, but why the obsessive secrecy across the next 50 years? In ‘Einstein, His Life And Universe’, biographer Walter Isaacson makes much of Einstein’s lifelong willingness to challenge authority, commenting, ‘Einstein’s impudence and contempt for convention, traits that were abetted by Mileva Marić, were evident in his science as well as his personal life in 1901’.
I have put together an explanation which addresses this extraordinary matter without fear or favour. A man of powerful if subterranean emotions, Albert Einstein had gargantuan redeeming features but not the way he reacted with such deep revulsion to the ‘genetically inferior’, to anyone unlucky enough to be born with a mental or physical handicap.
Tim Symonds January 2013