Einstein’s Brain


For the past 90 years–since Albert Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics–Jewish mothers have been wishing their children had the brain of the famous scientist.

Two recent quirky discoveries reveal that it’s possible for this to happen. Literally.

Einstein specified that, upon his death, he wished to be cremated. However, the on-call doctor at the hospital which received his body claimed that Einstein gave him permission to do an autopsy. During this autopsy, the physician–Dr. Thomas Harvey–removed and preserved Einstein’s brain, according to a recent article by Esther Inglis-Arkell. After the autopsy, Harvey took the brain with him, eventually having it cut into 240 cubes, each 1 cubic centimeter, and lending pieces to different scientists to study.

In seemingly unrelated news, Israeli president Shimon Peres recently started to campaign for an Einstein Museum in Jerusalem, to display the scientist’s professional and personal artifacts. Here’s the strange part: The museum, Peres specified, should be constructed in the shape of Einstein’s head.

What would Einstein himself have to say about all this? Inglis-Arkell offers a quote from the master: “The contrast between the popular assessment of my powers and the reality is simply grotesque.” Perhaps, but along with contemplating the thoughts of the great man, we can’t help but wonder about the head that contained them.

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