The Real Genius of Albert Einstein’s Brain

On April 19, 1955, Mrs. Schafer asked her fifth graders at Valley Road School in Princeton, New Jersey, if they had anything to contribute for current events. A smart little girl, sitting at the front, shot up her hand and blurted, “Einstein died!” A smart-alec boy at the back of the class said, “Yeah, and my dad’s got his brain.”

When Albert Einstein died of an abdominal aneurysm the previous day, it was Einstein’s will that his body be cremated. There was no mention of keeping his brain for scientific study. The story of what happened to Einstein’s brain over the past sixty years, and what today’s science tells us about the cause of his genius, is fascinating.

Einstein was autopsied by Dr. Thomas Harvey, a pathologist at Princeton University, who removed the brain and kept it without the Einstein family’s knowledge. Dr. Harvey was caught like a grave robber, however he worked a deal with Einstein’s son obtaining permission to retain the brain, but only for research — not for profit or show.

Dr. Harvey fixed the brain in celloidin, which is a standard procedure in preserving grey matter, then dissected it into 240 blocks and 1,000 microscopic slides, photographing it extensively. He sent specimens to leading neurologists around the world for their examination and, in time, received most of the pieces back.

Findings were that Einstein’s brain was somewhat smaller than most male’s — 2.7 pounds vs. 3.0 pounds — however the inferior parietal region which governs mathematical and special reasoning was fifteen percent larger than average. Otherwise (they thought at the time) he was a normal guy — at least anatomically.

For twenty-three years, Dr. Harvey kept Albert Einstein’s brain in two glass jars in a wooden crate — sometimes in his basement, sometimes in a closet, —> Read More