Einstein's Brain

Einstein's Brain


The pathologist who made Einstein's body's autopsy stole his brain and kept it in a jar for 20 years.


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A hundred years ago on Nov. 25, 1915 – Albert Einstein presented his famous theory of relativity to the Prussian Academy of Science in Germany. To commemorate the occasion, museums and universities around the world will be celebrating the life of Einstein.

But from Einstein's death emerges a different chapter. It's a story that's not garnering as much attention. It happened just eight hours after the legendary physicist passed away on April 18, 1955. Princeton Hospital pathologist Dr. Thomas Stoltz Harvey was performing the autopsy and, when nobody was looking, he did the unthinkable: He stole Albert Einstein's brain.

"It's a macabre story. It was a scandal. It was done against the will of his family," Hanoch Gutfreund, the director of the Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, told From The Grapevine. Einstein was a founder of Hebrew University, a member of its Board of Governors, and the chairman of its Academic Committee. He bequeathed to the university all his papers, documents, and personal correspondence. Which makes Gutfreund, himself a theoretical physicist, perhaps the world's leading expert on Einstein's legacy.

Harvey hadn't snatched the brain for the morbid fascination of keeping a part of history the same way some collectors have done with Annie Oakley's gun or Neil Armstrong's hair. Instead, Harvey was hoping to learn whether or not Einstein's genius could be quantified.


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