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?

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    I think this question is severly lacking in basic research on the subject. Albert Einstein's main contribution on the Manhattan project was signing Leó Szilárd's letter which convinced Roosevelt to initiate it. If the Nazis should be assumed to have kidnapped anyone, it would probably be Enrico Fermi. Einstein would probably be no better at building atomic bombs than Heisenberg turned out to be. – andejons Nov 17 '16 at 7:07
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    Einstein really didn't have much to do with the research leading to the atom bomb. His theory of relativity showed the equivalence of mass & energy (E=mc^2), but didn't say anything about how that energy might be accessed. That came from mostly empirical research by others, that started before Einstein's theory was published. It was his much later scientific reputation (after his emigration to the US) that helped persuade the American government to begin serious work on the A-bomb. – jamesqf Nov 17 '16 at 7:10
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    @andejons If the show is outright wrong regarding who worked on the atomic bomb, then perhaps "she didn't have anything to do with it, and neither did Einstein" would be the answer? – Thunderforge Nov 17 '16 at 7:12
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    There are various theories about Mleva's influence in Einstein's theories (up to claiming that Einstein was just a façade for Mileva to distribute her work without it being hampered by rampant sexism). But ignoring that part, the fact is that Einstein did not know how to build an A-bomb (if he did, why did the USA government have to spend an awesome amount of resource -in wartime, nonetheless- in the Manhattan Project). Szilard proposed the chain reaction mechanism, refinement of the material was needed, the trigger mechanism took lots of work... just too many important things were unknown. – SJuan76 Nov 17 '16 at 8:29

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.
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  • and more damning, the Germans knew all this, had people with the knowledge needed to design and build an atomic bomb, and chose not to do so. They did try to build a nuclear reactor for experiments, but sources tend to agree that they never intended to weaponise the technology (though who knows what might have happened had they had access to actual weapons grade materials later in the war, in 1942 no such plans existed). – jwenting Nov 17 '16 at 9:07
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    The German physicists tried to give the impression after the war that they would never have provided Hitler with nuclear weapons. The results of Operation Epsilon indicate that several of them were trying, but lacked crucial insights. They also had nothing like the required industrial resources. – John Dallman Nov 17 '16 at 9:18
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    There is a strange irony in the German development of the V-2, largely because they were afraid that the Allies were developing similar rockets, and the Allied development of the atomic bomb, largely because of fear of the Germans doing the same. Putting the two technologies together was necessary to make a truly effective weapon, in the ICBM. – John Dallman Nov 17 '16 at 9:20
  • Any source about "[the Germans] were afraid that the Allies were developing similar rockets"? At the time of the V-2 development as weapon the Allies did not need rockets at all to bomb German cities; no large or medium range rocket had been ever built or used by the allies, and the stablished narrative is that the V weapons were interesting mainly as a propaganda tool. – SJuan76 Nov 17 '16 at 11:27
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    @SJuan: The source is The Rocket and the Reich, by Michael J Neufeld. The original reason for building rockets was that they could replace the long-range artillery forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. Karl Becker pushed rocket development a lot before the outbreak of war. The claims about Allied powers developing long-range rockets were made by Walter Donberger during the battles for priority (R&R p124). In the end, it was used because it was there and could not be intercepted. – John Dallman Nov 17 '16 at 13:17

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