Being a genius has it’s many burdens, thrills and expectations. Most especially being a renowned one at that. Lots of media coverage, consultations, theories, controversies and what not. One of the weirdest things about being a famous intellect is that you stand the chance of having certain body parts disembodied and dissected for scientific research. Albert Einstein, one of the 20th century’s most formidable minds, famous for his theory of relativity, involvement in the nuclear crisis (which he had presumably sparked off when he wrote a letter to the American president warning of Germany’s presumed ability to develop nuclear war heads) and more recently, controversies on the whereabouts of his brain.
Einstein before he died stated that he wanted his body cremated and the ashes disposed off to prevent being an object of worship or study. On his death bed, he said a few words in his native German to a nurse who knew nothing about the language, so unless we can build a time machine, we will never know Einstein’s last words. Why did I bring this up?
Well, first of all, seven and a half hours after his death in 1955, Thomas Harvey, a pathologist who was called to consult an autopsy on Einstein took away his brain without permission from either the deceased scientist or his family. Absurd isn’t it? Well, this isn’t the first time this has been done. Some other prominent figures such as German mathematician Carl Friedrich (whose brain weighed 1492g), Vladimir Lenin, Sofia Kovalevsky, Edward H. Rullof just to name a few all had their brains removed for scientific research and stored as national relics in museums.
Einstein’s brain was found to weigh 1230g. It was subject to over 20 years of scientific research between the period of 1955 to 1978. Research showed that regions of his brain involved in speech, language and interaction seemed smaller than those involved in spatial and numerical processing. Also discovered were the presence of an increased number of glial cells, absence of a parietal operculum, and presence of larger neurons in his left hippocampus leading to arguments that such abnormalities resulted in his high intellectual capacity.
Now back to the brain bandit, Thomas Harvey. He had Einstein’s brain taken to a laboratory in the University of Pennsylvania for research. After conducting the research, he injected the brain with 50% formalin and doused it in 10% formalin for preservation. He also photographed the intact brain from several angles. He then proceeded to dissect it into blocks of 1cm3(240 of them) which he encased in a collodion. He not only took away the brain, but also the eyes which he gave to Einstein’s ophthalmologist, Henry Abrams.
Einstein’s brain remained missing until 1978 when a journalist, Steven Levy discovered the sections Harvey had kept to himself, well preserved in alcohol for over 20 years. By 2010, most of the remains of the brain had been collected and were transferred to the National Museum of Health and Medicine as one of the national relics including photographs of the whole brain. In 2013, 46 smaller portions of the brain were acquired and put on display in a museum in Philadelphia.



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