Yes but do you have any actual evidence?

So maybe women really do think logic is ‘a pestiferous male invention’ (The Dictionary of Fashionable Nonsense). It would seem so by this, anyway – Senta Troemel-Ploetz replying on Alan Boyle’s blog to Allen Esterson’s article on Troemel-Ploetz’s paper claiming that Mileva Marić ‘did Einstein’s mathematics.’ It’s a cringe-making performance, frankly. She offers no real evidence, she simply cites ‘a tradition that always attributes achievement to men even if the men themselves claim their wives were the authors’ and then gives three quotations from Einstein to Mileva Marić:

“How happy I am to have found an equal in you (eine ebenbuertige Kreatur) who is as strong and independent as I am.” “Until you are my dear little wife, we want to eagerly work together scientifically so that we won’t become philistines….” “When I look at other people, I realize what I have in you / what mettle you are made of.”

Later, Boyle says, she wrote an addendum:

Sophia Yancopoulos, an American physicist, speaks of the ‘subtler issues of collaboration,’ and we are far from knowing much about them. What we do know is that again and again the work of creative women was appropriated by men in the arts and the sciences, and men who fairly give credit to their female collaborators are the exception. Einstein was a very normal man, as I said in New Orleans anno 1990.

And that’s it. That’s really embarrassing – embarrassing the way watching ‘The Office’ is embarrassing. Offering three affectionate comments and a couple of broad generalizations to back up a claim that Einstein’s wife did his mathematics for him – and being willing to go public with that. Ow, ow, cringe.

Esterson replies – with admirable temperance – here.

In historical investigations such as this one must be guided by the hard evidence, not (as Troemel-Ploetz writes) by what is “plausible”, or “for all we know”. Nor should we take (as Troemel-Ploetz does in her 1990 article) as serious evidence the mostly third-hand statements obtained many decades after the event from interested parties taking nationalist pride in what they fondly believe to be a Serbian achievement. In his book Don’t Believe Everything You Think (2006), Thomas Kida reports the research of two psychologists who secretly recorded a meeting held in Cambridge, England. Two weeks later, the participants were asked to write down everything they could remember. Among other gross inaccuracies in their memories, many participants ‘remembered’ hearing comments that were never actually made. That puts into perspective the utter unreliability of third-hand reports provided decades later…

It looks as if Senta Troemel-Ploetz urgently needs to read that book.

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