Albert Einstein's brain was taken by the opportunistic pathologist who performed his autopsy hours after he died and kept in two jars for 30 years.
The stolen brain of Albert Einstein was preserved in a cookie jar for 30 years until being discovered by a journalist.
Albert Einstein's brain became a prized possession after his death as a result of his world-famous genius. Albert Einstein's brain was stolen and an autopsy was done on him just hours after he died on April 18, 1955.
While Einstein's son was first upset, he eventually agreed to allow the doctor, Thomas Harvey, to transfer the brain to researchers who wanted to see if the physicist's genius stemmed from a physically different brain.
That tortuous, decades-long search has brought some controversial results, maybe at the expense of the Einstein family and the genius himself.
Thomas Harvey stole Albert Einstein's brain.
Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879, in Ulm, Germany, and left an incomparable legacy, from knowing Charlie Chaplin to escaping Nazi Germany and revolutionizing physics.
Many scientists speculated that his brain might be physically different from the typical human mind because he was revered all around the world for his brilliance. So when he died of a ruptured aorta in Princeton Hospital at the age of 76, Thomas Harvey took his brain from his body right away.
Harvey "had some great professional ambitions based on that brain," according to Carolyn Abraham, author of Possessing Genius: The Bizarre Odyssey of Einstein's Brain.
Harvey not only stole Albert Einstein's brain, but also the physicists' eyeballs, which he handed to Einstein's ophthalmologist.
On April 20, the rest of Einstein's body was burned in Trenton, New Jersey, and his son, Hans Albert Einstein, discovered Harvey's actions. He eventually consented to research the brain, but only on the condition that the findings be published in prestigious scientific journals.
Harvey went on to record and photograph the brain in great detail. He reportedly weighed it at 1,230 grams, which was lighter than the average for guys his age. He then chopped the brain into 240 bits, photographing them and commissioning a painting of them.
Harvey stated that his motivation was entirely scientific, and he drove the brain across the country in order to donate bits of it to interested scientists. The clever pathologist even provided samples to the United States Army.
“They believed that having it would put them on a level with the Russians, who were collecting their own brains at the time,” Abrahams explained. It was a thing that people were gathering brains.”
Harvey's obsession with Albert Einstein's brain, on the other hand, cost him not only his position at Princeton but also his medical license and family.
Harvey moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he kept the brain in a cider box behind a beer cooler, to the shock of one writer in 1978. The first research of Einstein's brain was released in 1985 after word got out, with contentious results.
Was It Really That Different From The Average Mind?
The first investigation of Albert Einstein's stolen brain, published in Experimental Neurology in 1985, indicated that it did indeed appear physically different from the average brain.
The genius was said to have a higher-than-average number of glial cells, which keep the brain's neurons oxygenated and therefore active.
A further study published in 1996 by the University of Alabama at Birmingham claimed that these neurons were also more densely packed than typical, allowing for faster information processing.
Further analysis of Harvey's images three years later suggested that Einstein's inferior parietal lobule was wider than typical, suggesting that he was a more visual thinker than others.
In 2012, research stated that Einstein's brain has an additional ridge in the mid-frontal lobe, which is connected with planning and remembering.
However, some question this research, such as Pace University psychologist Terence Hines, who described them as "neuromythology."
“You can't take just one brain of someone who is different from everyone else – and we pretty much all are – and say, Ah-ha!” he said strongly. " I've discovered what makes T. Hines a stamp collector.”
Hines isn't the only one who is skeptical. “I don't know if Einstein was a genius because his parietal lobes were different,” neurologist Dr. Frederick Lepore, who collaborated on the 2012 study, said. ‘Where is special relativity?' you could ask if you placed my feet to the fire. We have no idea where general relativity came from.”
Despite the fact that most of Einstein's brain was returned to Princeton Hospital, the issue regarding its particular is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. However, other slides of the legendary organ were donated to medical organizations.
Before his death in 2007, Thomas Harvey gave the rest of Einstein's brain to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, with samples of his own on display at the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.