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The Strange Case Of Albert Einstein’s Brain After It Was Removed From His Body.

The brain of Albert Einstein was seized by the opportunistic doctor who performed his autopsy hours after he died and kept in two jars for 30 years.

Albert Einstein’s brain became a prized possession after his death as a result of his world-famous intellect. Albert Einstein’s brain was stolen and an autopsy was done on him just hours after he died on April 18, 1955.

While Albert Einstein’s son was first outraged, he eventually agreed to allow the doctor, Thomas Harvey, to deliver the brain to researchers who sought to see if the physicist’s genius stemmed from a physically distinct brain.

The stolen brain of Albert Einstein was stored in a cookie jar for 30 years until being discovered by a journalist. (image credits : National Museum of Health and Medicine)

That tortuous, decades-long search has yielded some contentious discoveries, maybe at the expense of the Albert Einstein family and the genius himself.

Thomas Harvey stole the brain of Albert Einstein.

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 reinventing physics.

Many scientists speculated that his brain could be physically different from the normal 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.

According to Carolyn Abraham, author of Possessing Genius: The Bizarre Odyssey of Einstein’s Brain, Harvey “had some great professional aspirations placed on that brain” and believed the organ would help him further his medical career.

Harvey not only stole Albert Einstein’s brain, but also the physicists’ eyeballs, which he delivered to Einstein’s ophthalmologist.

The Strange Case Of Albert Einstein's Brain After It Was Removed From His Body.
On April 18, 1955, Einstein’s remains were put into a hearse in Princeton, New Jersey. (image credits : Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

On April 20, the rest of Einstein’s corpse was burned in Trenton, New Jersey, and his son, Hans Albert Einstein, learnt of Harvey’s actions. He ultimately consented to research the brain, but only on the condition that the findings be published in prestigious scientific publications.

Harvey went on to study and photograph the brain in great detail. He allegedly weighed it at 1,230 grams, which was lighter than the norm for guys his age. He then cut the brain into 240 parts, photographing them and commissioning a painting of them.

Harvey maintained that his motivation was entirely scientific, and he drove the brain across the nation in order to deliver portions of it to interested academics. The crafty 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 phenomenon that people were gathering brains.”

Harvey’s preoccupation with Albert Einstein’s brain, on the other hand, lost not only his position at Princeton but also his medical license and wife.

Harvey relocated to Wichita, Kansas, where he kept the brain in a cider box behind a beer fridge, much to the surprise of one writer in 1978. The first examination of Einstein’s brain was released in 1985 when news got out, with disputed results.

Was It Really That Distinct From The Average Brain?

The Strange Case Of Albert Einstein's Brain After It Was Removed From His Body.
For reporters at Princeton Hospital, Dr. Thomas Harvey describes his autopsy on Albert Einstein. (image credits : Bettmann/Getty Images)

The first examination of Albert Einstein’s stolen brain, published in Experimental Neurology in 1985, found that it did indeed seem physically different from the ordinary brain.

The genius was said to have a higher-than-average number of glial cells, which keep the brain’s neurons oxygenated and so active.

Later research published in 1996 by the University of Alabama at Birmingham claimed that these neurons were also more densely packed than typical, allowing for quicker information processing.

A further examination of Harvey’s pictures three years later suggested that Einstein’s inferior parietal lobule was broader than usual, suggesting that he was a more visual thinker than others.

In 2012, a research stated that Einstein’s brain has an additional ridge in the mid-frontal lobe, which is related to planning and remembering.

The Strange Case Of Albert Einstein's Brain After It Was Removed From His Body.
In Kansas in 1994, Thomas Harvey held a piece of Einstein’s brain. (image credits : Michael Brennan/Getty Images)

However, some reject these findings, 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 confidently. I’ve discovered what makes T tick. Hines is a stamp aficionado! ”

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 research, said. ‘Where is special relativity?’ you would ask if you placed my feet to the fire. We have no clue where general relativity came from.”

At the Mütter Museum, sections of Albert Einstein’s stolen brain and Dr. Thomas Harvey’s signature may be seen. (image credits : Mütter Museum)

Despite the fact that most of Einstein’s brain was returned to Princeton Hospital, the argument about its details is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. However, other slides of the same organ were donated to medical institutes.

Let us know your opinions in the comments.

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