The Man Who Stole Einsteins Brain
When Albert Einstein died on April 17, 1955, his wishes were to be cremated and his ashes scattered. Einstein was concerned about the exploitation that could occur after his death which would rob his family of their privacy. Thomas Harvey, MD, the pathologist on duty in the Princeton Hospital where Einstein died, stole the brain and days later obtained reluctant permission from Einsteins son to study his fathers brain. Harvey preserved the brain in slides, but stored them poorly in a wooden crate in his basement and it wasnt until his wife insisted that he get rid of the brain that he took steps to move Einsteins brain and begin the process of his study and distribution to other scientists. Harveys professional life became disorganized with multiple career moves and ultimately the loss of his medical license. He went to work on an assembly line in a Kansas factory and drank with his neighbor, the writer William Boroughs, and boasted about having Einsteins brain in storage. As time went on, Einsteins brain was subject to multiple studies and speculations developed about the brain of this genius. Did he have more neurons and glial cells? Were there more folds in his brain? It appears that those studies were flawed and that the samples deteriorated as they aged.
Click here to read the story in National Geographic:
The Tragic Story Of How Einsteins Brain Was Stolen And Wasnt Even Special
My headline may be a bit misleading. Albert Einstein, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who gave the world the theory of relativity, E = mc2, and the law of the photoelectric effect, obviously had a special brain. So special that when he died in Princeton Hospital, on April 18, 1955, the pathologist on call, Thomas Harvey, stole it.
Einstein didnt want his brain or body to be studied he didnt want to be worshipped. He had left behind specific instructions regarding his remains: cremate them, and scatter the ashes secretly in order to discourage idolaters, writes Brian Burrell in his 2005 book, Postcards from the Brain Museum.
But Harvey took the brain anyway, without permission from Einstein or his family. When the fact came to light a few days later, Harvey managed to solicit a reluctant and retroactive blessing from Einsteins son, Hans Albert, with the now-familiar stipulation that any investigation would be conducted solely in the interest of science, Burrell writes.
Harvey soon lost his job at the Princeton hospital and took the brain to Philadelphia, where it was carved into 240 pieces and preserved in celloidin, a hard and rubbery form of cellulose. He divvied up the pieces into two jars and stored them in his basement.
Just when you think this story cant get any weirder, it does. As Burrell explains :
But that premise is nonsense and the studies are bunk, at least according to Terence Hines, a professor of psychology at Pace University.
Hours After He Died Albert Einsteins Brain Was Snatched By The Opportunistic Pathologist Who Did His Autopsy Then Left In Two Jars For 30 Years
National Museum of Health and MedicineAlbert Einsteins stolen brain was kept in a cookie jar for 30 years before a journalist tracked it down.
Because of his world-renowned genius, Albert Einsteins brain became a coveted object even after he died. Within hours of Albert Einsteins death on April 18, 1955, an autopsy was performed on him by a doctor who actually stole his brain.
While Einsteins son was initially furious, he did later permit the doctor, a man named Thomas Harvey, to give the brain to researchers who wanted to identify whether the physicists genius came from a brain that was physically different.
That winding, decades-long quest has since revealed some controversial results and perhaps at the expense of the Einstein family and the genius himself.
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Did You Know Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen Cut Into Pieces And Studied To Unlock The Mystery Behind His Intelligence
Best known for developing the general theory of relativity and the mass-energy equivalence, one of the most absent-minded genius physicists, Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Germany.
His scholarly feats have made the name of Einstein synonymous with ‘Genius’. When he passed away on April 18, in the year 1955, in Princeton, New Jersey, from an abdominal aortic aneurysm, his brain was stolen by the pathologist on call, Thomas Harveys.
Brains Of Other Geniuses
Preserving the brains of geniuses was not a new phenomenonanother brain to be preserved and discussed in a similar manner was that of the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss almost a hundred years earlier. His brain was studied by Rudolf Wagner who found its weight to be 1,492 grams and the cerebral area equal to 219,588 square millimeters. Also found were highly developed convolutions, which was suggested as the explanation of his genius. Other brains that were removed and studied include those of Vladimir Lenin, the mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya, and the Native American Ishi. The brain of Edward H. Rulloff, a noted philologist and criminal, was removed after his death in 1871 in 1972, it was still the second largest brain on record.
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The Phenomenal Brain Of Albert Einstein Vs Normal Brain
Albert Einstein had an exceptional brain. It was different from an ordinary brain due to many reasons.
Things that make his brain stand out:
Hopefully, there will be more research on this famous brain in the future.
How Was Einsteins Brain Stolen
Dr. Thomas Harvey took out the Brain of Albert Einstein. Only within seven and a half hours of his death, he took out the brain. He was very eager to find out the reason for Einsteins genius. Actually, you cant blame him. At that moment, he had the chance to unfold a huge mystery behind the greatest mind of the world.
Dr. Harvey was the first and last person to hold the most famous brain in history by hand.
What he was responsible for:
Harvey did not only cut the brain of Einstein. But he also took the liberty of taking the eyes too. Einstein had an Ophthalmologist by the name of Dr. Henry Abrams. The jar of eyes was given to him.
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How Much Did Einstein Use His Brain
Thomas misquoted the brilliant American psychologist William James as saying that the average person specifically develops only 10 percent of his latent mental ability. In fact James had referred more vaguely to our latent mental energy. Others have claimed that Einstein attributed his intellectual giftedness to
Was It Really Different From The Average Brain
in Experimental Neurology in 1985, the first study of Albert Einsteins stolen brain revealed that it did indeed appear physically different from the average brain.
The genius reportedly had an above average amount of glial cells, which keep the neurons in the brain oxygenated and, therefore, engaged.
A subsequent study out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1996 asserted that these neurons were also more tightly packed than usual and thus possibly allowed for faster processing of information.
Three years later, a third study of Harveys photos posited that Einsteins inferior parietal lobule was wider than average, which might have made him a more visual thinker than most.
And more recently, a 2012 study claimed that Einsteins brain featured an extra ridge in its mid-frontal lobe, an area associated with plan-making and memory.
But there are many who criticize these studies, like Pace University psychologist Terence Hines who referred to them as a kind of neuromythology.
As he emphatically asserted, You cant take just one brain of someone who is different from everyone else and we pretty much all are and say, Ah-ha! I have found the thing that makes T. Hines a stamp collector!
Mütter MuseumSections of Albert Einsteins stolen brain and Dr. Thomas Harveys signature at the Mütter Museum.
The Wild True Story Of How Einsteins Brain Was Stolen For Science Earthcom
The saga behind Einsteins stolen brain is many things, part comedy, part tragedy and all with an eclectic cast of characters including doctors, Einsteins relatives, determined journalists, and even renowned beat poet William Burroughs.
But what the story of Einsteins stolen brain teaches us most is how far advances in neurology and neuroscience have come since the early 1950s.
Our story starts with a pathologist, Thomas Harvey, who was on call at Princeton Hospital on April 18th, 1955. Einstein, the founding father of relativity and creator of the equation E = mc2, had just died after an abdominal aortic aneurysm ruptured a few days prior.
Harvey, the hero of our tale, performed the autopsy after Einsteins death and brought a small keepsake home with him, Einsteins brain, which he kept in his possession for the majority of the rest of his life.
What could drive such an act? According to Harvey, it was the pursuit of genius, or rather, discovering what makes a genius. Even though it was against Einsteins last wishes, Harvey was able to convince Einsteins family that the brain offered an amazing opportunity for scientific discovery.
Harvey wanted to find out what allowed the German theoretical physicist to unlock some of the greatest mysteries of our universe and to see if he could identify any differences in Einsteins brain to help explain the phenomenon.
Stronger Connection Between Brain Hemispheres
A study published in the journal Brain in September 2013 analyzed Einstein’s corpus callosum – a large bundle of fibers that connects the two cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication in the brain – using a novel technique that allowed for a higher resolution measurement of the fiber thickness. Einstein’s corpus callosum was compared to two sample groups: 15 brains of elderly people and 52 brains from people aged 26. Einstein was 26 in 1905, his Annus Mirabilis . The findings show that Einstein had more extensive connections between certain parts of his cerebral hemispheres compared to both younger and older control group brains.
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The Day Of Einstein’s Autopsy
On the day of the autopsy, two professionals, friends with each other, Dr. Harry Zimmerman and Dr. Thomas Harvey , were talking about who would do the work. In the end the task fell to Harvey. He wanted the honor of working with the most admired character of the day, and Zimmerman thought it only fair to let his former student have that honor.
Harvey came face to face with Einstein, determined that the cause of his death was an abdominal aortic aneurysm which they had already warned the Physicist in his lifetime could happen if he did not undergo an operation. But Einstein flatly refused to have surgery and decided that he did not want to extend his life.
During the autopsy, Harvey was in absolute concentration, living his moment, his moment with genius. He had been the person chosen among all humans to attend to an icon in history in his last corporeal process, before turning back to stardust. Even though there were a couple more people watching, there was no one to him except him and his inert visitor.
He felt it was his duty to solve some mysteries. The questions were already a swarm of questions in his head. What had made Einstein different from other mortals? Where did his ability to solve science riddles lie? Where was the engine of that genius? Were the answers a couple of incisions away? Was the possibility of solving this mystery about to be cremated? He couldn’t allow it. I couldn’t help but find out!
What Happened To The Brain Of Einstein Afterwards
Harvey soon lost his job at the Princeton hospital and took the brain to Philadelphia. He carved the brain responsible for the equation E=mc2 into 240 pieces. The parts were preserved in celloidin- a hard and rubbery form of cellulose. He put the pieces into two jars and stored them in his basement.
Harvey travelled to different parts of the world carrying the parts of the brain with him.
In the year 1985, Harvey and collaborators in California published the first study on Einstein’s brain. It claimed that it had an abnormal proportion of two types of cells, neurons and glia. The study was followed by five others, reporting additional differences in individual cells or in particular structures in Einstein’s brain.
However, the studies were controversial with Terence Hines, a professor of psychology at Pace University, branding them as bunk. He presented a poster at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society annual meeting outlining all of the ways in which each of the six studies was flawed.
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The Bizarre True Story Of The Man Who Stole Einstein’s Brain
On April 18, 1955, Albert Einstein, one of the most brilliant scientists who ever lived, died of heart failure in a Princeton, New Jersey, hospital.
What happened right after that is pretty hard to believe.
Thomas Harvey, the pathologist on call that night, began Einstein’s autopsy. As a pathologist, his only job was to determine the cause of death. Instead, without permission, Harvey cut out Einstein’s brain, plunked it in a jar full of formalin, and took it to his home office.
Yeah, he stole Einstein’s brain.
“Whether he took it for himself, or took it for science â it was hard for people to know which, and that’s what put him in the crosshairs for a lot of people,”said journalist Michael Paterniti.
It makes sense that the brain that dreamed up relativity, the concept of E = mc^2 and the would be the subject of fascination. What made Einstein a genius? Was his brain superior to others?
But studying his brain went directly against Einstein’s last wishes. According to Brian Burrell’s bookPostcards From the Brain Museum: The Improbable Search for Meaning in the Matter of Famous Minds, Einstein wanted his entire body cremated and his ashes scattered in secret to “discourage idolaters.”
Then he and the brain left Princeton and ran off to the Midwest.
Basically, we can’t tell much of anything from one brain.
Where is it now? You can actually go see some pieces of the brain â it’s at the MÃ¼tter Museum in Philadelphia.
Albert Einsteins Brain Was Stolen By Thomas Harvey
Born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, Albert Einstein left behind an untouchable legacy, from befriending Charlie Chaplin and escaping Nazi Germany to redefining the study of physics.
Respected all over the world for his genius, it was theorized by many in the scientific community that his brain might actually be physically different from the average human mind. So when he died at age 76 of a burst aorta in Princeton Hospital, his brain was immediately removed from his body by Thomas Harvey.
According to Carolyn Abraham, author of Possessing Genius: The Bizarre Odyssey of Einsteins Brain, Harvey had some big professional hopes pinned on that brain and likely figured that the organ might further his career in medicine.
Not only did Harvey steal Albert Einsteins brain, but he also removed the physicists eyes, which he then gave to Einsteins ophthalmologist.
The rest of Einsteins body was cremated in Trenton, New Jersey, on April 20, at which time his son, Hans Albert Einstein, learned what Harvey had done. He eventually agreed that the brain could be studied, but only on the condition that those studies be published in scientific journals of high standing.
Harvey went on to meticulously document and photograph the brain. He weighed it at 1,230 grams, which was reportedly lighter than the average for men of Einsteins age. He then sliced the brain into 240 chunks which he also photographed and of which he even commissioned a painting.
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Theft Of Einstein’s Brain
In August, 1978, New Jersey Monthlyreporter Steven Levy published an article, “I Found Einstein’s Brain”, based on his interview with Dr. Harvey when Harvey was working in Wichita, Kansas. In 1988, Dr. Harvey retired and moved to Lawrence, Kansas. In 1996, Harvey moved from Weston, Missouri to Titusville in Hopewell Township, Mercer County, New Jersey. In the 1994 documentary Relics: Einstein’s Brain, Kinki University Professor Sugimoto Kenji asks Harvey for a piece of the brain, to which Harvey consents and slices a portion of the brain-stem. Footage shows Harvey segmenting and handing over to Sugimoto a portion. In 1998, Harvey delivered the remaining uncut portion of Einstein’s brain to Dr. Elliot Krauss, a pathologist at University Medical Center at Princeton. As and associates discovered, certain parts of Einstein’s brain were found to have a higher proportion of glial cells than the average male brain.
In 2005, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Einstein’s death, the 92-year-old Harvey gave interviews regarding the history of the brain from his home in New Jersey.
Harvey died at the University Medical Center at Princeton on April 5, 2007.