Einstein’s Brain: The Autopsy and Its Interesting Case

Are the brains of intellectually superior individuals a whole lot different from ordinary people? It has been an exciting subject of medical study for so many years, even before Einstein. The mathematical prodigy Carl Friedrich Gauss was among those whose brain was removed and studied. And in 1955, when Einstein died, his brain was likewise subjected to the same scientific investigation.

It surely is a good idea if the next publication of Webster’s thesaurus dictionary would consider putting the word “einstein” in formal declaration as one of the exact synonyms of the word “genius”. Surely it will not come as a surprise; people have been equating Einstein to mean genius. This culture as we might all know, took its origin from the famous creator of the now towering and mind-boggling scientific theories – the special and the general theory of relativity. Because of their revolutionary detour from the established physics of the time, they were highly controversial at first but were subsequently proven right when some of their bold predictions were experimentally verified, making Albert Einstein a household name the world over. In addition, he became the modern representative of extraordinary genius since Newton.

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Einstein lived for many more years to savor his well-deserved fame. He was so famous that a casual news of him catching up a mild fever would rush people to his bed. And as had been the usual case to many geniuses, Einstein’s brain was removed when he died in 1955 by Thomas Stoltz Harvey, a Princeton Hospital pathologist, who performed the autopsy on Einstein. Harvey preserved the brain in formalin and photographed it from different angles (shown above). He further dissected it into 240 blocks, each 1 cm3 in volume, and incased the segments in a transparent plastic-like material. He was apparently fired from his position at Princeton Hospital for his refusal to relinquish the famous organ in his possession.

Whether Einstein had permitted the removal and preservation of his brain remains a matter of dispute. Ronald Clark, one of the biographers of Einstein has it in his 1971 lengthy biography of Einstein that “he had insisted that his brain should be used for research and his body be cremated”.  Many a Clark reader, however, doubted this claim. For the record, Hans Albert, one of Einstein’ s  sons and who went on to become a distinguished  professor of hydraulics at the University of California, Berkeley, permitted Harvey to removed his father’s brain on conditioned that it should be used and published in highly intellectual materials.

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The preserved brain continued for many years in Harvey’s keeping until it was shared public when a journalist convincingly discovered it to be in the possession of Dr. Harvey in 1978.  Harvey himself did not find anything unusual in Einstein’s brain which he found to be as normal as that of any ordinary individual.

Later, Marian C. Diamond, also a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, succeeded to convince Harvey to give her samples of Einstein’s brain in 1980. She made thin sections of the brain and succeeded to count the glial cells with the use of a microscope. Interestingly, Dr. Diamond’s study revealed that Einstein’s brain had more glial cells than in other neurons in all areas taken into consideration; albeit, it was found statistically significant only in the left inferior parietal area, a part of the association complex where the brain function of incorporating and synthesizing information is attributed to. And when Einstein’s ratio of glial cells was compared to the preserved brain of 11 ordinary men, Dr. Diamond found that Einstein’s contained more. As it is normal in the scientific community, Dr. Diamond’s finding was not spared from criticism, constructive though. Diamond herself knew the limitation in her study, having compared Einstein’s brain to only 11 persons. Besides, while at Purdue University, she and a colleague had already  discovered that a rat in an enriched environment developed more glial cells in each neuron than its counterpart in an impoverished area; thereby, putting a strong drawback in her discovery of Einstein’s brain having a relatively greater number in glial cells.

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In 1999, however, the brain was subject to further scientific scrutiny. For one, a team from Mcmaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada found something strange in Einstein’s brain. Their careful analysis revealed that a region called parietal operculum in the inferior frontal gyrus in the frontal lobe of the brain was vacant. “This unusual brain anatomy may explain why Einstein thought the way he did’, claimed Professor Sandra Witelson, the competent director of the team. But, Professor Laurie Hall of Cambridge University, decried the study, noting that the Canadian team merely based their investigation on the series of photographs by Dr. Harvey which he took in 1955, and not on the actual brain itself. Hall 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”.

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23 Responses to “Einstein’s Brain: The Autopsy and Its Interesting Case”
  1. K Kristie Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 4:36 am

    A well-researched informative article. Great post!

  2. K Kristie Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 4:39 am

    A well-researched informative article. Great post!

  3. nutuba Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 5:26 am

    This is informative and interesting — nicely done!

  4. Christine Ramsay Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 6:00 am

    A very interesting article. I am sure that they could find out a lot more nowadays from the brain. Well done.


  5. Blue Buttefly Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 7:22 am

    You always select a topic that give brilliant info! Well expressed friend!

  6. Dee Gold Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 9:14 am

    well done

  7. Anne McNew Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 6:14 pm

    very well presented. very informative. you really did your assignment very well to research on this. Keep up.

  8. Juancav Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 6:54 pm

    Einstein ´s brain is still alive.

  9. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On March 1, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    It seems one brain is basicaly like another. And nobody can account for what makes a genius.

  10. rutherfranc Says...

    On March 2, 2009 at 12:54 am

    glad I`m not a genius.. don`t want somebody tinkering with my brain after my death..

  11. CutestPrincess Says...

    On March 2, 2009 at 8:07 am

    very well-researched and very informative! good job!

  12. Melody SJAL Says...

    On March 2, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Hmmm…that’s interesting. You certainly did a lot of research in this one.

  13. xoxo Says...

    On March 2, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Einstein is really that famous that his brain was dissected. I find it very interesting my friend, I also felt very sorry for him. As far as we know, he would not had permitted that. But, I guess… It is always for the sake of science.

  14. Likha Says...

    On March 3, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I would love to have Einstein’s brain transplanted on me anytime.

  15. The Quail Says...

    On March 3, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    A very well researched and written article.

  16. Athlyn Green Says...

    On March 9, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Very interesting subject matter. This was a truly fascinating individual.

  17. uhhhh Says...

    On March 11, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    my brain is Godly

  18. eddiego65 Says...

    On March 15, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Very interesting, bro. I myself would like to find out the secret of Einstein’s genius.

  19. William H. Depperman Says...

    On April 1, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Michio Kaku and the So-Called “History Channel” Establishment Cover Up the Fact that
    Einstein’s First 3 Papers in 1905 Were a Collaborative Effort With His Wife, Mileva Maric!

    It should be mentioned that Michio Kaku and several others in typical sexist fashion in a 2-hour report on Albert Einstein on the so-called “History Channel” covered up through omission the irrefutable fact that Einstein’s wife Mileva Maric made substantial contributions to Einstein’s first 3 papers in 1905, his miracle year, and that her name was on all 3 papers which were first submitted according to the Russian scientist, Abraham Joffe, who saw the signatures of both Einstein and Mileva Einstein-Marity (Marity is a Serbian form of Maric) on the original copies of the those papers. Maric’s name was later removed from all the originals to hide her contributions in keeping with the sexism of that time when women could not even vote and were deemed to be mere chattels. Mileva Maric’s contributions are specifically mentioned in 13 of the 43 of Einstein’s love letters to Maric, those which were not destroyed. Thirteen of those letters contained statements which referred to her research or to their ongoing collaborative effort. The most likely reason for the destruction of the other letters was of course to hide the fact that those 3 historic 1905 papers were in fact a collaborative effort. See: http://home.comcast.net/~xtxinc/mileva.htm and http://itis.volta.alessandria.it/episteme/ep4/ep4maric.htm as well as a very determined and disparaging attack of Mileva Maric at: http://www.esterson.org/milevamaric.htm, which nevertheless is refuted by the actual facts. Later in 1914 when they moved to Berlin, and after Einstein had had his macho ego pumped up through the roof by Max Planck and others, Einstein actually tried to get Mileva to sign an onerous document, apparently a provocation designed to drive her away, which was rejected by Maric, which would have reduced her to a virtual slave in her own house! Kaku and the other “experts” of the establishment also cover up the fact that Einstein lacked the mathematics to properly formulate the General Theory of Relativity, because he could not formulate the mathematical proof, and that he had to be tutored in differential geometry for over a year by his longtime friend and colleague Marcel Grossman, who had attended the classes which Einstein had skipped. The bottom line here is that Einstein was an intuitive astrophysicist, not an experimental astrophysicist and as such would undoubtedly have needed and benefited enormously from the relationship he had with his physicist wife, Mileva Maric, to confirm his ideas and to hear alternative points of view which the surviving letters from Einstein to Mileva indicate he incorporated into his first 3 papers from 1905. Einstein was not a god and had help all along the way.

    The Fact that Einstein’s Brain Was Structurally Different Helped
    But Was Not Determinative in his Contributions to Theoretical Physics!

    The 1985 study of Einstein’s brain by Marian C. Diamond reveal that Einstein had more glial cells relative to neurons only in the left inferior parietal area, Brodmann’s area 39, where the difference was statistically significant. The parietal lobes of the brain form the association area of the brain. In this area Einstein possessed a significantly greater number of both astrocytes and oligodendroglia (oligodendrocytes) glial cells. Glial cells provide support and nutrition to the brain cells—the grey matter. The number of glial cells increases with age given a normal blood circulation and increases up the evolutionary ladder. Astrocytes are the most numerous glial cells and fill the space between neurons by enveloping synaptic junctions in the brain, thereby restricting the amount of neurotransmitter molecules which have been released. Astrocytes have special proteins in their membranes which actively remove neurotransmitters from the synaptic cleft. In addition, Astrocytes also possess neurotransmitter receptors just like nerve cells, which allow them to most efficiently coordinate their metabolism with the neurons. Astrocytes also absorb extra-cellular potassium ions which build up as the result of neuronal metabolism, as well as absorbing other substances which can interfere with nerve cell function. They cushion the brain and permit a more complex brain structure as their numbers increase. Oligodendroglia cells, like Schwann cells in the peripheral nervous system, form myelin layers around the neuronal axons (fibers) which insulates the neuronal axons in the brain, and thereby participate in neuronal signal transmission. Larger numbers of glial cells supply more energy for neural circuits. Microglia, which function as phagocytes to remove the debris of dead or degenerating nerve cells and glial cells, were not included in the study. Supposed criticism of Diamond’s study, namely that Diamond and a colleague had previously discovered that a rat in an enriched environment developed more glial cells in each neuron than its counterpart in an impoverished area is totally irrelevant.

    Einstein’s Association Area Was 15% Larger Than Normal

    The left inferior parietal cortex is part of the association area which was 15% larger in Einstein’ brain due to the fact that Einstein’s brain lacked a Sylvian (lateral) fissure, which in Einstein’s brain did not extend past the horizontal Central Sulcus of Rolando, which in all brains separates the frontal cortex from the parietal association area. Normal extension of the Sylvian fissure posterior to this point separates the temporal and parietal lobes of the brain. The lack of the Sylvian fissure in Einstein’s brain significantly expanded his parietal association area, while decreasing the size of the temporal lobe involved with speech: Einstein did not speak until he was 3 years old and had difficulty forming sentences. (The inferior parietal region is responsible for mathematical thought, visuospatial cognition, and imagery of movement.)

    The glial study was performed by Marian C. Diamond at the University of California (Experimental Neurology, Vol. 88, pages 198-204 (1985). The gross study of Einstein’s brain was only published in the Lancet, Volume 353, Issue 9170, Pages 2149 – 2153, 19 June 1999. In addition, this citation and all the authors: Sandra F. Witelson, Debra L. Kigar and Thomas Harvey are censored by Medline, Pub Med, etc. This article is not listed under any of the authors of the study and Internet search engines deliberately misdirect people to a letter in the Lancet which appeared only many months later: The Lancet, Volume 354, Issue 9192, Page 1822, 20 November 1999. The reason that these studies were published so long after Einstein’s death in 1955 was because his brain was so completely different in appearance lacking the posterior extension of the Sylvian fissure. This had NEVER ever been reported in anatomical studies in the annals of all the anatomical literature. Because of the fact that it was only 10 years after the end of World War II when Einstein died it was feared that release of the autopsy findings of Einstein’s brain at that time would provide a further basis for anti-Semitism, with the cry going out that “Jews are not like other humans! They are aliens! Look at Einstein’s brain! It’s not the same as other people!” While it is true that Einstein may have had an advantage by his brain anatomy both at the histological and gross levels, it is very unlikely that he would have made his contributions without the input of Mileva Maric his fellow-astrophysicist wife and Marcel Grossman as documented above.

    The Gutkind Letter Documents that Einstein was an Atheist!
    Einstein’s Response to Strong Criticism by Soviet Scientists
    Documents that by May 1949 Einstein was a Communist!

    Einstein revealed very clearly and in no uncertain terms he was an atheist in his January 3, 1954 letter to Eric Gutkind, the Jewish philosopher, who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. The article was sold for $404,000 at auction on May 15, 2008 by Bloomsbury Auctions in London and the relevant text was published in the British Guardian on May 13, 2008, and also in the New York Times on May 17, 2008. The published section states:
    … The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.
    In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the privilege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one. And the animistic interpretations of the religions of nature are in principle not annulled by monopolization. With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary.
    Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e. in our evalutations [sic] of human behaviour. What separates us are only intellectual ‘props’ and ‘rationalization’ in Freud’s language. Therefore I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.
    With friendly thanks and best wishes
    Yours, A. Einstein.
    Many attempts have been made to falsely portray Einstein as someone who believed in god. The capitalist dictatorship media propagandists, and most recently especially the despicable professional liar Dennis Overbye, has been foremost in this effort. Even in the above-mentioned article in the New York Times Overbye tried to falsely attribute a belief by Einstein in “a personal god,” falsely stating that Einstein had said that he was “an agnostic” and “not an atheist.” This is entirely false! Einstein made no such statements and also never made the statement falsely attributed to him: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” While Einstein’s did remark that “God does not play dice with the Universe” in response to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, formulated by Heisenberg in March 1926, Einstein undoubtedly made that remark while his ideas on religion were still in formation. Einstein developed into an atheist and a Communist (Materialist). This is fully documented by Einstein’s own writings.

    In response to Einstein’s attempt to develop a theory of “One world Government” using the United Nations as a basis, Soviet scientists, Seigei Vavilov, A.N. Frumkin, A.F. Joffe and N.N. Semyonov wrote an Open letter in the Moscow New Times, November 26, 1947, criticizing “Dr. Einstein’s Mistaken Notions,” where they clearly explained that such a “one world government” would be simply a means by which all countries would submit to U.S. capitalist dictatorship. Einstein reacted to the very solid criticism by immediately writing an immediate rejoinder to his Soviet colleagues entitled “A Reply to the Soviet Scientists” published in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 1948, where he lamely tried to defend his ideas and the United States. But by May 1949 Einstein had clearly done some thinking and completely reversed course! Einstein wrote: “Why Socialism” published in the Monthly Review, New York, (May, 1949) where he solidly backed socialism and the Russian Revolution! Einstein finally showed that he understood that capitalism cannot be turned into socialism and that a Socialist Revolution is necessary to create the change he envisioned. “Why Socialism” demonstrated that Einstein had begun to read Karl Marx, but unfortunately not Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin), the architect and leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, whose writings in The State and Revolution supplied the answers to the practical questions Einstein raises at the end of the essay. No wonder Einstein was spied upon by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI and no wonder Einstein was not permitted access to the Manhattan Project where the atomic bomb was developed, a project which he and Leo Szilard initiated with their August 2, 1939 letter to Franklin Delano Roosevelt recommending the building of an atomic bomb before the NAZIs did. All of the above-mentioned documents except the Einstein/Szilard letter are available in “Albert Einstein: Out of My Later Years” Revised Reprint Edition, Citadel Press, Secaucus, New Jersey 1956 and 1979.

    William H. Depperman, Coordinator
    United Front Against Racism
    And Capitalism-Imperialism
    March 31, 2009

  20. Ruby Hawk Says...

    On June 18, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    I came by to give you another click.

  21. Francois Hagnere Says...

    On June 21, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Excellent and so well-documented article. Congratulations.
    Very best wishes.

  22. s hayes Says...

    On July 6, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Intereting and original article x

  23. Kate Says...

    On March 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Question: Did they ever compare Einstein’s brain to 11 “normal” female brains esp vav “glial cells …in the left inferior parietal area,… a part of the association complex where the brain function of incorporating and synthesizing information is attributed to.
    The reason I ask is because current neurological studies show that the female brain is integrated ie various brain segments communicate with each other in ways not found in the typical male brain.
    Could it be that the “typical” female brain is very similar to Einstein’s? which is why the “typical” male brain can’t follow a female’s analysis skills?

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