Einstein's Love Life Gets Messy in Nat Geo's 'Genius'

Johnny Flynn stars as young Albert Einstein and Samantha Colley stars as Mileva Marić in National Geographic's "Genius." (Image credit: National Geographic/Dusan Martincek)

Albert Einstein may have been a genius in the sciences, but when it came to women, he couldn't have been more clueless.

In the second episode of "Genius" – which airs tonight (May 2) at 9 p.m. ET on the National Geographic Channel – watch young Einstein make the first of many mistakes that would characterize his messy love life.

Nat Geo's 10-part global event series shines a light on the more tumultuous side of Einstein's personal life. Last week's series premiere dove right in to the chaos with violent scenes of Nazi Germany and a taste of Einstein's lifelong debauchery.

Tonight's episode takes viewers back to his first affair during his time at Zürich Polytechnic in Switzerland, where his budding romance with the woman who would later become his first wife kicks off with a series of epic blunders. [Photos: The 'Genius' of Albert Einstein on Nat Geo]

At the end of Episode 1, we met Mileva Marić – the only person who scored higher than Einstein on the math portion of the entrance exam at Zürich Polytechnic in 1896. Marić shared Einstein's love and affinity for science, and Einstein was instantly drawn to her brilliant mind.

Marić was the only woman enrolled at Zürich Polytechnic at the time and became the second woman to complete a full course of study at the university's department of math and physics. But she never received her diploma after failing the exit exams twice. Marić felt Einstein was at least partially to blame for these failures, as he distracted her and encouraged her to skip lectures.

The real Albert Einstein and Mileva Marić in 1912. (Image credit: Public Domain)

As Einstein courts his new love interest, he fails to notify his previous girlfriend, Marie Winteler (played by Shannon Tarbet), that he has moved on to a new relationship. Einstein and Winteler had become an item one year earlier while he completed secondary school – essentially, high school – at the Argovian cantonal school in Aarau, Switzerland.

Though she was beautiful and endearing, Winteler was no scientist. Einstein wanted a partner who could have stimulating conversations about physics, and Marić fulfilled that desire. But Einstein didn't know how to break things off with Winteler when he met someone new, so he, well, didn't. When the women finally figure out what's going on, things get a little awkward.

See how Einstein's first big love triangle goes awry on the National Geographic Channel tonight. If you haven't seen last week's episode, you can stream it online here (for free).

Email Hanneke Weitering at hweitering@space.com or follow her @hannekescience. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Hanneke Weitering
Contributing expert

Hanneke Weitering is a multimedia journalist in the Pacific Northwest reporting on the future of aviation at FutureFlight.aero and Aviation International News and was previously the Editor for Spaceflight and Astronomy news here at Space.com. As an editor with over 10 years of experience in science journalism she has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time, Hanneke enjoys exploring the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.