Albert Einstein's brain

Albert Einstein's brain

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Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

's brain
has often been a subject of research and speculation. Einstein's brain
Human brain
The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but is over three times larger than the brain of a typical mammal with an equivalent body size. Estimates for the number of neurons in the human brain range from 80 to 120 billion...

 was removed within seven hours of his death. The brain has attracted attention because of Einstein's reputation for being one of the foremost genius
Genius is something or someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight....

es of the 20th century, and apparent regularities or irregularities in the brain have been used to support various ideas about correlations in neuroanatomy
Neuroanatomy is the study of the anatomy and organization of the nervous system. In contrast to animals with radial symmetry, whose nervous system consists of a distributed network of cells, animals with bilateral symmetry have segregated, defined nervous systems, and thus we can begin to speak of...

 with general or mathematical intelligence. Scientific studies have suggested that regions involved in speech and language are smaller, while regions involved with numerical and spatial processing are larger. Other studies have suggested an increased number of Glial cell
Glial cell
Glial cells, sometimes called neuroglia or simply glia , are non-neuronal cells that maintain homeostasis, form myelin, and provide support and protection for neurons in the brain, and for neurons in other parts of the nervous system such as in the autonomous nervous system...

s in Einstein's brain.


Einstein's autopsy was conducted by pathologist
Pathology is the precise study and diagnosis of disease. The word pathology is from Ancient Greek , pathos, "feeling, suffering"; and , -logia, "the study of". Pathologization, to pathologize, refers to the process of defining a condition or behavior as pathological, e.g. pathological gambling....

 Thomas Stoltz Harvey
Thomas Stoltz Harvey
Thomas Stoltz Harvey was a pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Albert Einstein in 1955. Harvey studied at Yale University as an undergraduate and later as a medical student under Dr. Harry Zimmerman...

 at Princeton shortly after his death. In a lab at the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

. Harvey then removed, weighted and dissected into several pieces Einstein's brain; some of the pieces he kept to himself while others were given to leading pathologists. He claimed he hoped that cytoarchitectonics
Cytoarchitectonics of the cerebral cortex
The cytoarchitectonics of the cerebral cortex is the study of neuronal cell bodies cytoarchitecture in the cerebral cortex of the brain.-History:...

 would reveal useful information. Harvey injected 10% formalin through the internal carotid arteries and afterwards suspended the intact brain in 10% formalin. Harvey photographed the brain from many angles. He then dissected it into about 240 blocks (each about 1 cm3) and encased the segments in a plastic-like material called collodion
Collodion is a flammable, syrupy solution of pyroxylin in ether and alcohol. There are two basic types; flexible and non-flexible. The flexible type is often used as a surgical dressing or to hold dressings in place. When painted on the skin, collodion dries to form a flexible cellulose film...

. Harvey also removed Einstein's eyes, and gave them to Henry Abrams. He was fired from his position at Princeton Hospital shortly thereafter for refusing to relinquish the organs
Organ (anatomy)
In biology, an organ is a collection of tissues joined in structural unit to serve a common function. Usually there is a main tissue and sporadic tissues . The main tissue is the one that is unique for the specific organ. For example, main tissue in the heart is the myocardium, while sporadic are...


Scientific studies

Harvey noticed immediately that Einstein had no parietal operculum
Parietal operculum
The parietal operculum is the portion of the parietal lobe on the outside surface of the brain bordering the lateral sulcus, and the extension of this cortex which forms the posterior ceiling of the lateral sulcus. It contains the secondary somatosensory cortex .-Secondary somatosensory cortex:In...

 in either hemisphere. Photographs of the brain
show an enlarged Sylvian fissure; clearly Einstein's brain grew in an interesting way.
In 1999, further analysis by a team at McMaster University
McMaster University
McMaster University is a public research university whose main campus is located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The main campus is located on of land in the residential neighbourhood of Westdale, adjacent to Hamilton's Royal Botanical Gardens...

 in Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton, Ontario
Hamilton is a port city in the Canadian province of Ontario. Conceived by George Hamilton when he purchased the Durand farm shortly after the War of 1812, Hamilton has become the centre of a densely populated and industrialized region at the west end of Lake Ontario known as the Golden Horseshoe...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 revealed that his parietal operculum
Operculum (brain)
Operculum, derived from Latin, meaning "little lid", refers to the cerebral cortex on the outside surface of the brain bordering the lateral sulcus, and the roof and floor of the lateral sulcus. Neuroscience divides the operculum into orbital, frontal, parietal and temporal regions, after the...

 region in the inferior frontal gyrus
Inferior frontal gyrus
The inferior frontal gyrus is a gyrus of the frontal lobe . It is labelled gyrus frontalis inferior, its Latin name...

 in the frontal lobe
Frontal lobe
The frontal lobe is an area in the brain of humans and other mammals, located at the front of each cerebral hemisphere and positioned anterior to the parietal lobe and superior and anterior to the temporal lobes...

 of the brain
The brain is the center of the nervous system in all vertebrate and most invertebrate animals—only a few primitive invertebrates such as sponges, jellyfish, sea squirts and starfishes do not have one. It is located in the head, usually close to primary sensory apparatus such as vision, hearing,...

 was vacant. Also absent was part of a bordering region called the lateral sulcus
Lateral sulcus
-External links:* * *

 (Sylvian fissure). Researchers at McMaster University speculated that the vacancy may have enabled neurons in this part of his brain to communicate better. "This unusual brain anatomy...(missing part of the Sylvian fissure)... may explain why Einstein thought the way he did," said Professor Sandra Witelson who led the research published in The Lancet
The Lancet
The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is one of the world's best known, oldest, and most respected general medical journals...

. This study was based on photographs of Einstein's brain made in 1955 by Dr. Harvey, and not direct examination of the brain. Einstein himself claimed that he thought visually rather than verbally. Professor Laurie Hall of Cambridge University
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

 commenting on the study, said, "To say there is a definite link is one bridge too far, at the moment. So far the case isn't proven. But magnetic resonance and other new technologies are allowing us to start to probe those very questions".

Scientists are currently interested in the possibility that physical differences in brain structure could determine different abilities. Also found were highly developed convolutions, which was suggested as the explanation of his genius. Other brains that were removed and studied include that of Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and communist politician who led the October Revolution of 1917. As leader of the Bolsheviks, he headed the Soviet state during its initial years , as it fought to establish control of Russia in the Russian Civil War and worked to create a...

 and the Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

, Ishi
Ishi was the last member of the Yahi, the last surviving group of the Yana people of the U.S. state of California. Ishi is believed to have been the last Native American in Northern California to have lived most of his life completely outside the European American culture...

. The brain of Edward H. Rulloff
Edward H. Rulloff
Edward H. Rulloff was a noted philologist and criminal. Rulloff is also notable for his brain which as of 1970 is the second largest on record and can be seen on display at the psychology department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.Rulloff was born near Saint John, New Brunswick to...

, philologist and "criminal of superior intelligence," was removed after his death in 1871; in 1972, it was still the second largest brain on record.

External links