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Mileva Marić was the subject of the episode "Out of Time" of the TV show DC's Legends of Tomorrow. I'd like to know if her portrayal is historically accurate.
As a result of a rogue time traveler, a US-based cell of Nazis have access to an atomic bomb in 1942, which they use to blow up New York. The heroes assume that the Nazis captured Albert Einstein and forced him to build it for them, but later discover that they actually kidnapped his first wife Mileva Marić (according to the show, only the two of them know how to build the atomic bomb at this point). The Nazis provide the raw materials and force her to reveal how to build an atomic bomb.
After the heroes rescue her and stop the bomb she created from being detonated, the heroes convince Einstein to publicly announce Mileva Marić as being his equal in his atomic research, thus giving her the same security protection as he has in order to deter future kidnapping attempts.
Is there any historical evidence that Mileva Marić had the knowledge to build an atomic bomb herself, as shown in this TV show?
according to the show, only the two of them know how to build the atomic bomb at this point
This is historical nonsense. Several physicists realised that an atomic bomb might be possible shortly after the discovery of nuclear fission, notably Leo Szilard, a Hungarian living in the USA. He enlisted Einstein to sign a letter in August 1939 to President Franklin D Roosevelt, warning that Nazi Germany might develop atomic bombs.
This letter was effective in starting the Manhattan Project, which developed the engineering and materials production technology needed to build the bomb. However, the scenario described is completely impossible for several reasons:
- When Einstein and Marić divorced in 1919, having lived apart for five years, nobody had the faintest idea how to build an atomic bomb, because nuclear fission hadn't been discovered. While the equation e=mc^2 had been formulated, this tells us nothing about how to do the job.
- In 1942, some general ideas about how to build a bomb existed, but they weren't fully developed, and were one of the biggest secrets of the war. They weren't known to Einstein, because he wasn't working on the Manhattan Project. He was by this time 63 years old, and a committed pacifist who wanted nothing to do with the war effort. He later described the letter to Roosevelt as the biggest error of his career. At the time, Marić was living in Zurich, with no way to learn about the work of the Manhattan Project.
- Atomic bombs can't be built without the correct materials, highly enriched uranium, or plutonium. These only existed in milligram quantities in 1942: most of the work of the Manhattan Project was building and operating the huge amount of industrial plant necessary to produce them in the kilogram quantities required for an atomic bomb, and the materials weren't available until summer 1945.