Tag Archive | Winston Churchill

The Bizarre Journey of Einstein’s Missing Brain

download (96)On 18 April 1955, Albert Einstein, the “Man of the century” died in Princeton Hospital. He was 76 by then. The entire world mourned the passing of one of the most genius minds the world has ever seen. The cause of death was internal bleeding, because an abdominal aortic aneurysm burst. Einstein made it clear that his body is to be cremated after he dies. His words were “I want to be cremated so people won’t come to worship at my bones”. But many don’t know the fact that within a few hours of his death, his brain went missing! Dr. Thomas Stoltz Harvey, who was then a pathologist at the Princeton Hospital, was assigned to do the autopsy. He removed Einstein’s brain against the will of the scientist. Fascinated to study the genius’s brain and hoping that the neuroscience of the future might reveal the reason what made Einstein’s brain so intelligent, he secretly took out the brain. The brain of the genius of the century was stolen, and no one knew about it; even the Einstein family was unaware of the fact. It was the news of the next day that made them realize the fact.

Harvey himself made the fact public. It was obvious that the whole world went crazy. Reporters thronged to the home and office of Harvey and the Einstein family. There was a madness among the reporters to know whether the rumor was true or not, and if it was, they wanted to know more. The Einstein family was outraged and at grief as they didn’t gave the permission to remove and preserve Einstein’s brain. To make the matter even worse, someone removed Einstein’s eyes too. This fact only shows that how obsessed was the world to know what Einstein’s brain thought, what Einstein’s eyes saw.

The family immediately went to meet Dr. Harvey, and after learning a few facts that Harvey discovered during the course of time, they gave the doctor permission to proceed with his study. However, they laid the condition that the results are to be published only in scientific journals, and the doctor will not make any money out of it.

Dr. Harvey made a couple of findings. Einstein’s brain weighed 1,230 grams, which is a little more than the average adult brain, but well within a normal human brain range. He photographed the brain from different angles, and took it to the University of Pennsylvania, where he dissected it into 170 pieces. It took him three complete months in the process. Each brain section was then sliced into 240 microscopic slides. Dr. Harvey spent months and years, but apart from learning some minor things, he didn’t find anything major. His efforts were failing and he couldn’t do anything. In desperation, he contacted some of the best Neurologists of that time. But to his misery no one agreed as no one wanted to be associated with the person who stole the brain of the “Man of the century”. As a result Dr. Harvey suddenly disappeared along with the brain, and the world kept waiting.

Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany in 1879 and started his education in Munich. Some believe that it’s not the structure of his brain that made him a genius, but it was his upbringing, his curiosity, the era he grew and lived. His father was an engineer and he idolized him. He saw two world wars as well as the cold war, and their catastrophic results. He was always very curious to learn things. By age of 10 he started asking questions, which the teachers couldn’t answer. So he was a trouble maker. He was least interested in learning the bookish materials and instead loved to learn practically. After his graduation, although he was looking for a teaching post, but couldn’t find one, he secured a clerical job in a patent office in Bern. The job was quite boring, but with decent salary, and it gave him enough free time to think, study, and understand the things that have always fascinated him. He spent a lot of time looking out of the window, thinking, and writing lots of notes and equations.

He published 300 plus scientific papers and hundreds of books in his lifetime. Most of us think that Einstein made his discoveries in his 60s, but the truth is the four major ground breaking discoveries of his life were made while he was quite young. In just one year, 1905 he wrote four groundbreaking scientific papers, while the other scientists even after spending their entire lifetime still struggle to write one. That is really a genius! The Time magazine recognized him as the man of the century, overlooking Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921 for the discovery of the “law of the photoelectric effect” and his contributions to Theoretical Physics.

Two decades since the death of the great scientist, and there was still no sign of his brain nor of Dr. Harvey. However, in year 1978, an article titled “I Found Einstein’s Brain” was published in the New Jersey Monthly. The author was Steven Levy. His senior assigned him a task that was to change his life and career, which was to find the missing brain of Einstein. After doing some research, Levy found that Dr. Harvey was living in Wichita, Kansas. He called the doctor and asked if they can meet for an interview. After a moment of silence, he heard the doctor saying yes. Levy visited the doctor and after a small talk, he asked if he is still in possession of the brain. Dr. Harvey then took out two large mason jars from a cider box containing the brain sections, still preserved in alcohol.