On April 18, 1955 the father of relativity, Albert Einstein, died of a burst Aorta and was taken to a mortuary in Princeton, New Jersey. Einstein’s wish was to be cremated but the pathologist on duty thought it a shame to destroy such a celebrated brain. So, without permission, he picked up a saw and cut Einstein’s cranium and extracted his brain… oh and he also grabbed his eyeballs. Dr Harvey then plopped everything into a couple of jars. And promptly alerted the New York Times.
The family was furious, but Harvey eventually convinced them his actions were all in the the name of science! The jar of eyes was given to Einstein’s eye doctor Henry Abrams who placed them in a safe deposit box which is rumored to be somewhere in New York City. The brain however, went on a far wider journey.
After cutting the brain into 240 blocks, he was able to make a thousand slides out of different portions of Albert Einstein's brain. He boxed up those slides and sent them to researchers around the world. Although Harvey stole the brain in the name of science, promising to publish important research, in the four decades that followed he never did... But the slides that Harvey sent to qualified brain researchers around the world did reveal some interesting things about Einstein’s brain.
Even though Einstein’s IQ was way higher than most, the size of his brain was actually smaller than the average male. More significantly though, Einstein’s inferior parietal region was about 15 percent larger than average.It’s thought to be the part of the brain that helps with language and mathematics. Another anatomical difference is that he was lacking a crevice in the skull area in the brain called the Sylvian fissure. Also his brain did not show any significant signs of aging, which appears in the brain with age.
It was lacking a substance called lipofuscin, which is an auto-fluorescent brown-yellow pigment that’s not very well understood. What we do know is that it accumulates in the human body with age, and yet at 76 years old, Einstein’s brain was almost completely void of it. But none of these facts could be considered a huge breakthrough in understanding Einstein’s genius. So eventually the hubub died down and for the most part, the famous brain was forgotten. The remainder of Einstein's brain that was not dissected into slides was put into a cider box under a beer cooler in Dr. Harvey’s home. After spending decades in a beer cooler, Dr Harvey donated the brain to Princeton Hospital.
As for the 1000 slides? What happened to them. There were five boxes of slides created of Einstein's brain. We know that one set of slides is at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. At the Mutter Museum we have 46 ….the rest of the slides are MIA. There’s no doubt that what Harvey did wasn’t exactly ethical and probably not in the name of science BUT hopefully with modern technology and our developing knowledge of the human brain, secrets about Einstein’s brain may finally be revealed and it’s long journey from an Ivy League hospital to a beer cooler won’t be for nothing.