National Geographic

The Tragic Story of How Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen and Wasn’t Even Special

My headline may be a bit misleading. Albert Einstein, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who gave the world the theory of relativity, E = mc2, and the law of the photoelectric effect, obviously had a special brain. So special that when he died in Princeton Hospital, on April 18, 1955, the pathologist on call, Thomas Harvey, stole it.

Einstein didn’t want his brain or body to be studied; he didn’t want to be worshipped. “He had left behind specific instructions regarding his remains: cremate them, and scatter the ashes secretly in order to discourage idolaters,” writes Brian Burrell in his 2005 book, Postcards from the Brain Museum.

But Harvey took the brain anyway, without permission from Einstein or his family. “When the fact came to light a few days later, Harvey managed to solicit a reluctant and retroactive blessing from Einstein’s son, Hans Albert, with the now-familiar stipulation that any investigation would be conducted solely in the interest of science,” Burrell writes.

Harvey soon lost his job at the Princeton hospital and took the brain to Philadelphia, where it was carved into 240 pieces and preserved in celloidin, a hard and rubbery form of cellulose. He divvied up the pieces into two jars and stored them in his basement.

Just when you think this story can’t get any weirder, it does. As Burrell explains (emphasis mine):

After [Harvey's] wife threatened to dispose of the brain, he returned to retrieve it and took it with him to the Midwest. For a time he worked as a medical supervisor in a biological testing lab in Wichita, Kansas, keeping the brain in a cider box stashed under a beer cooler. He moved again, to Weston, Missouri, and practiced medicine while trying to study the brain in his spare time, only to lose his medical license in 1988 after failing a three-day competency exam. He then relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, took an assembly-line job in a plastic-extrusion factory, moved into a second-floor apartment next to a gas station, and befriended a neighbor, the beat poet William Burroughs. The two men routinely met for drinks on Burroughs’s front porch. Harvey would tell stories about the brain, about cutting off chunks to send to researchers around the world. Burroughs, in turn, would boast to visitors that he could have a piece of Einstein any time he wanted.

(I know, right?!)

To fast forward a bit: Come 1985, Harvey and collaborators in California published the first study of Einstein’s brain, claiming that it had an abnormal proportion of two types of cells, neurons and glia. That study was followed by five others (the most recent published just this month), reporting additional differences in individual cells or in particular structures in Einstein’s brain. The researchers behind these studies say studying Einstein’s brain could help uncover the neurological underpinnings of intelligence.

But that premise is nonsense and the studies are bunk, at least according to Terence Hines, a professor of psychology at Pace University.

A couple of weeks ago, Hines presented a poster at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society annual meeting outlining all of the ways in which each of the six studies is flawed. Some highlights:

–In the original 1985 report, Harvey and his collaborators found that in Brodmann Area 39 — a region where the temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes meet — Einstein’s neuron-to-glia ratio was significantly smaller than it was in the same area in 11 control brains. But the control group was not all that well controlled: the brains came from people age 47 to 80 years old, whereas Einstein died at age 76. The controls brains were also fresh, whereas Einstein’s had been languishing in basements and beer coolers for three decades. Perhaps most problematic, counting cells is a subjective business, and the researchers performing the cell counts were not blind to which tissue was Einstein’s and which was not.

–In 1996, Harvey partnered with a scientist from Alabama and counted neurons in Einstein’s Brodmann Area 9 — part of the frontal cortex — as well as those of five controls. There were no differences in the number of neurons or the size of neurons, the study found, but Einstein’s tissue was thinner than controls. More densely packed neurons, the authors speculated, means that cell-to-cell messages travel shorter differences, which might mean faster processing speed overall. That’s quite a stretch. As Hines calls out in his poster, the finding was based on just one square millimeter of Einstein’s brain. What’s more, the authors admit to not reporting any of the ways in which Einstein’s brain was similar to controls.

–In 1999, Harvey and Canadian collaborators got Einstein’s brain into one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, The Lancet. Based on old photographs that had been taken of Einstein’s brain before it was cut up, the researchers claimed that Einstein had an abnormal folding pattern in part of his parietal lobe, a region that has been linked to mathematical ability. They also reported that his parietal lobes were 15 percent wider, and more symmetrical, than those of control brains. Once again, though, the researchers were not blinded to which photographs showed Einstein’s brain. And though the authors were quick to make links between these supposed differences and Einstein’s mathematical prowess, Hines points out that Einstein wasn’t, in fact, a great mathematician.

The underlying problem in all of the studies is that they set out to compare a category made up of one person, an N of 1, with a nebulous category of “not this person” and an N of more than 1. With an N of 1, it’s extremely difficult to calculate the statistical variance — the likelihood that, for example, Einstein’s low neuron-to-glia ratio is real and not just a fluke of that particular region and those particular methods. Even if the statistics were sound, you’d still have the problem of attributing skills and behaviors to anatomy. There’s no way to know if X thing in Einstein’s brain made Einstein smart/dyslexic/good at math/you name it, or was just an X thing in his brain.

It makes me angry to think of all that was wasted in these investigations. There was the monetary cost of the studies — money that could have been spent on work that was not doomed from the outset to fail. There was a personal cost, in that Einstein’s family was essentially strong-armed into agreeing to participate in research that Einstein explicitly did not want to participate in. And there was a public cost, too. In popular-press accounts of these studies over the years, the public was misled about the findings and their supposed scientific value.

I’ve made this error, too, by the way. In 2012 I wrote an uncritical, cringe-worthy report on preliminary data from a neuroscience conference comparing brain images of Temple Grandin, one of the most famous people with autism, with those of three controls. The researchers claimed to find several distinctive features in Grandin’s brain that could explain her exceptional nonverbal intelligence and her way of thinking in pictures.

Here’s how smart Einstein was — he understood all too well the public’s obsession with him, our obsession with celebrity and special-ness. He knew that if given the chance, scientists would pore over his brain’s neurons and glia, sulci and gyri, and make grand pronouncements about what makes a genius. And he knew it would be bullshit.

As Einstein supposedly wrote, but probably didn’t really write, on a blackboard in his Princeton office: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

There are 51 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Frederick E. Lepore
    April 21, 2014

    Yes Virginia, Einstein’s brain really is different. (And yes, we’re still a long way from explaining the underpinnings of his extraordinary genius).

    A few Einstein “myths” which you recounted deserve comment.
    1. Thomas Harvey didn’t steal the brain. Einstein’s son, Hans Albert, and his executor, Otto Nathan, gave Harvey permission to proceed with a pathological study of the brain.
    2.Einstein had a great interest in the brain. His electroencephalogram (EEG) made the pages of the New York Times several years before his death.
    3.The “N of 1″ argument neglects the voluminous control data on normal cortical anatomy found in the standard atlases of Connolly and Ono. When we compared the “lost” photographs of Einstein’s brain with the normal brains in both atlases, we found that Einstein really had an anatomically exceptional brain! Read our paper in BRAIN (2013; 136:1304-27) and you be the judge.
    4.Our study’s results are, to say the least, intriguing.We had no grant support … we merely expended intellectual capital to pursue a fascinating question.So I disagree wth your contention regarding futile “monetary cost.”
    5. From your dismissive remarks about “the bull” associated with the study of “sulci and gyri,” I can only assume that you are a “dualist” who advocates a complete disconnection between mind and brain.Maybe you’re right … but you should provide your readers with a preliminary disclaimer stating your position on this profound neuroscientific/philosophical question.

  2. mortimer zilch
    April 21, 2014

    well you sure can muddy the waters. About that fold, it doesn’t matter that researchers knew it was Einstein’s brain, they could see there was no fold. That’s the biggest difference between Einstein’s brain and ordinary brains. What does that mean? Well, it made a difference to stroke patients because it proved that the brain can change it’s structure – through repetitive action other parts of the brain can take over new duties. So, the “theft” of his brain proved useful. Oh, and is Mr. Burrell the “NJ Monthly” author who broke the story originally?

  3. Andrea Pereyra
    April 21, 2014

    Dear Virginia Hughes,
    I found this article very interesting. It amazes me that Albert Einstein was “only human!” I agree with you that a lot of time was wasted on an investigation that was “doomed” from the beginning. But I also disagree. Without this research having been conducted, we would continue to be clueless, and think there was something more to Einstein’s brain that made him the mathematician he was. Yet again, I agree that the researchers who studied the brain should have used theirs a little more wisely. If they would have used a better control group (ex. brains around the same age as Einstein’s), the investigation could’ve had a slightly different outcome. I know it would still be similar, and most likely wouldn’t prove that Albert Einstein’s brain had some sort of special quality.
    - Andrea Pereyra

  4. Charles G.
    April 21, 2014

    Frederick,

    Thank you for a wonderful example of Trollling. 1. Do you have proof of your first statement? Or are you representing Mr. Harvey’s estate against Libel as some sort of attorney? 2. Virginia did not state that Einstein was not interested in his brain, simply that he left instructions not to be studied after death. 3. You are using your research to argue a point on a National Geographic Blog, Go publish yourself and stop panhandling. 4. Read number 3. 5. Virginia never states she is god or the only person to listen to, But you seem to be doing so.

  5. shamsi
    April 22, 2014

    I like to know the of Iranin physician
    Afte Einstein ???

  6. niknaz
    April 22, 2014

    I’m 13 years old like toknow much more abuot the physician presonality m

  7. Prince
    April 22, 2014

    Interesting Article. However, I disagree that Einstein’s brain was in no way special. Common sense dictates that everyone’s brain is special in some way, shape or form. If not for the common reason that the length of our fingers are not equal, it should be that because our experiences shape who we become.

    I do agree that no one in any way, shape or form should to be violated against their afterlife requests but the premise that Einstein biologically is not unique is flawed.

    Yes, I do not have any proof but if we are all the same, how come we are different?

    Thanks for the read,
    Prince

  8. PeriSoft
    April 22, 2014

    Sure, Einstein was a pretty smart cookie, but what about Feynman, Bohr, Gell-Mann, Dirac? Acting as if Einstein was at some fundamentally different level just because his footwear preferences and funky hair have him post-mortem marketability is, frankly, more of an insult to science (and scientists) than a gesture of respect. Further, it defies common sense to pretend that Einstein’s raw intelligence or creativity were (or are) unique; surely there have been plenty of blindingly smart people who just didn’t happen to be interested in, or who lacked the opportunity to be educated in, a field with the potential that physics had for epoch-shaking individual contribution.

    The problem with all of this, to me, isn’t so much that Einstein’s noggin stuffing is being studied per se, but that pop culture’s obsession with it is obscuring the appreciation for the true breadth and depth of intellectual acheivement. A particular ability in mathematics or physics is worthy, but not so worthy that it makes sense to ignore the others.

  9. Arthur
    April 22, 2014

    Very interesting article. To debate the pro’s and con’s of brain research is ,in my opinion, futile.What needs to be researched further is Einsteins theory and the existence or non existence of GOD and the universe. Seems to me that too many leaders ,here on earth, are Godless,hence , all the problems we have to overcome. The quest for knowledge continues.

  10. LH
    April 22, 2014

    Hi Virginia,

    thanks for bringing this story to our attention. I totally agree with you. In my opinion it completely doesn’t matter, whether his brain was stolen or his son gave the permission for a pathological study, whether the studies were of statistical significance or rubish, whether public money was used to do this research or just leisure time of the researchers was spent to it.. The most important thing is, that HE explicitly prohibited the use of his brain for research posthumously. And we HAVE to respect this, anyway! What makes things even worser is, that the results and conclusions of these studies are completely speculative and meaningless in my opinion, even if the control group is well choosen and so on and so forth.. but this are just my two cents..

    Best wishes

  11. M Thomas Mathai
    April 22, 2014

    I wish to know more about the brain

  12. Rob
    April 22, 2014

    You left out the best part of the story, Eintstien’s brain’s road trip. Harvey put Einstein’s in the back seat of his car and drove to California to give it to Professor Diamond at UC Berkeley. Professor Diamond didn’t want the entire only a small piece. So Harvey put the brain in the back seat of his car and drove it back to New Jersey.

    Harvey was interviewed on NPR’s This American Life about eight years ago. It’s interesting to listen to him tell the story.

    • Virginia Hughes
      April 22, 2014

      oh interesting, I’ll look up that episode! thanks

  13. BRyan Gaston
    April 22, 2014

    Virginia,
    I caught the article on the Daily Digg… what I have say is not scientific, yet is in as I was reading, I found that there is no evidence or persuasion that has any weight on whether someone’s brain is the reason, someone is special. As a pastor, I find in the Old Testament that king Solomon was an ordinary man until GOD asked him what he wanted from HIM. When Solomon received the historic wisdom, it wasn’t from his brain matter at birth, by a gift from GOD. I find in life that even on the field of combat, men turn into courageous men from not their birth brain, but upon circumstances that bring out how special GOD has formed every man and woman. What about great warriors, like king David, or Audie Murphy, or the story of Sgt. York? What about Joshua in his conquest of the Promise Land? The brain size or scientific data means nothing! I think there is certain more to it than counting cells and measure lobes… whatever…? I am not a smart man, but I do know that GOD has given me an abundance of wisdom as I grow in HIM. I see science change their books every year… mostly getting dumber and dumber… while in the same time slot, I see that GOD’s WORD has not changed even a slight from centuries… Good article though… Made me think about the fact that GOD created man in HIS own imagine makes us all special with different gifts… you have a special brain too Virginia!
    Blessings

    BRyan Gaston

  14. Edward A. Weissbard
    April 22, 2014

    @Paster Bryan Gason-I have to say that unfortunately, the structure and mass of the brain does have a huge influence on what makes a person. I can certainly see this now in my step son who is severely brain damaged now, due to an accident. Faith and religion can only go so far.

  15. Edward A. Weissbard
    April 22, 2014

    @Pastor Bryan Gaston-The spelling of your last name was unintentional, I do apologize…..as well as your title………….too early in the morning, need coffee.

  16. TErry
    April 22, 2014

    The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. This is how he sourced his information and infact any great or creative genius does….

  17. Unknown
    April 22, 2014

    @ poster Edward I have to agree with you and disagree at same time,
    your right about that brain have huge infulence on what make person and same time the way you get raised in life, some people raised in good way that he have time
    to grow withouy having trouble in life while others dont, some raised bein afraid from there family or people because the way they get treated and that effect too, but insame time i have yo agree with bryan because there is things thats over the power
    of human, every 1 born and he is good in things than others, like sport, intellegent, artist, etc but as in a body scientific i believe all have same thing as each other, some might have extra parts or less parts but
    in general all have same
    lungs, hands etc unlesa born with problems… yet as mr.bryan said there is stuff from GOD gave to his prophets. If you read some books about religions you will see alot
    from past been said that got discovered lately. ex: at prophet youssef age he said that he had a dream of 11 planet and sun and the moon on there knees for him, and im sure not ao long scientist said they found 11 planets in universe,,,, another ex: its written in Quran about mosquito and its has another insect on it and im sure lately got diacovered..
    so I can say that research about Einstein brain was not that success.
    and i apologize mr.Edward about my name since the subject you read is not that important than to look at people mistakes or names to give sarcasim words. your too wise to make a mistake

  18. kbut
    April 22, 2014

    I quickly speed-read the comments about your article. Damn good article. But back to the comments; they prove one thing Einstein knew but was reluctant to talk about. People are assholes.

  19. TT
    April 22, 2014

    “…not everything that can be counted counts.” What Einstein meant by that is a refrence to the voting system. He meant that not every person’s vote has equal importance and value. He mean that only the worthy individuals’ votes should count, and the worthless individuals’ votes should not count. Should the vote of a homelsss junkie have the same value as the vote of a supreme court judge? Of course not. But unfortunately society is set so both votes have the same value, and both votes equally determine the outcome of the elections. And that’s a huge mistake. And that is why the country has had all these problems so far.

  20. Najam-Ul-Hassan
    April 22, 2014

    Obviously Einstein had a special brain. Einstein said that?

  21. Dean Gonzalez
    April 22, 2014

    As far as God making Einstien’s brainpower… this is what Einstein had to say about God in a letter to Eric Gutkind: “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…” Neither Einstein nor Hawking accepted/accept that an invisible man is responsible for the universe. So throwing out the divine inspiration and looking to physics for answers then the physical makeup of his brain must be the key to his intelligence, unless we all feel that given the same experiences we too would be Einstein- not! Not saying that we will ever get that out of the horrendous way that his brain was taken and stored, not to mention the fact that his wishes were not respected. However, the brain is a physical structure, subject to the laws of physics, so the key to his intelligence is there. Unfortunately, the real experiment, would be cloning him and then try to raise the clone with a duplicate environment- not saying that this should EVER be done, just saying that is probably the only way to tell. Maybe one day we will have a computer advanced enough that it can take a DNA sample of a person, and then construct a virtual model of that persons brain to test. Article made me think, therefore, good article. :-)

  22. SW Boy
    April 22, 2014

    Psychology is not a science.

  23. ray chandler
    April 22, 2014

    for the rest of the story, google Eugene Mallove’s last interview……it is beyond eye-opening…..but be prepared…it is not for the weak of mind….just keep reading until you figure out all the hubbub!!

  24. Joseph Burns
    April 22, 2014

    Regardless of all the BS- The man’s request was not granted- The ultimate disrespect for one of the greatest minds of all time- Such a tragedy due to certain peoples greed as always-

  25. Zoran Paljevic
    April 22, 2014

    “…read as it is written”- we Serbs use to say.

    “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

    He’s talking about science, male chauvinism and money.

    For critical part of his work someone’s else brain should be studied.

    I’m not surprised that he left specific instructions related to his body.

  26. Kort
    April 22, 2014
  27. Grama Keshava Ananthram
    April 22, 2014

    Very unfortunate ; again human avarice;despite Einstein’s request that his physical remains should not be subjected to investigation; such horrendous mutilation and stagnation of his mind took place; the greatest dishonour meted out to the legendary scientist /Scholar ! What a shame; what a shame ! Human avarice unbridled !

  28. Frederick E. Lepore
    April 22, 2014

    I’ve greatly enjoyed (and have been educated) by the preceding comments.
    For what it’s worth, Einstein’s Last Will and Testament did NOT discuss the disposition of his mortal remains.

  29. tom in joshua tree
    April 22, 2014

    The first time I heard about this was back in 1967 or so. I was 14 years old. My imagination soared with thoughts of wonder as to how someone could be so intelligent to be considered a genius. At this time in my life, that was what people were calling me. There were reasons why but that is not important, here. Only that it made me ask myself, at the time, why? Why is there this specialness? Difference? Uniqueness?
    Now, nearly fifty years later I still wonder about this. Mainly because my life seems to show that there is something special and different. Something still unknown, as well.
    Given enough time, maybe this will become understood, but the fact remains where we are what we are, and that is that. We can grow and improve and excel, but to be gifted with prodigy is where uniqueness is.
    I doubt anyone will ever find a physiologic reason for this and believing Professor Einstein’s brain would render such insights is nonsense in a pathological understanding, in my opinion. It would be like saying Michael Jackson had extraordinary vocal chords or Liberaci had incredible fingers to play a piano.
    Professor Einstein knew he was a regular guy who was gifted with his own, unique, wiring diagram and in it resided his ability to also know his faith in his capabilities. With that, he became who he was. A product of his great personal genetic gift and how he molded it with the dynamics of his deep relentless desire to be who he wished to be.
    This is true for all genius and to think otherwise only missleads the idea. From sevant to enslaved brains, emotion is master and it was an emotion that drove the Professor. To be ” that guy” and want it so desparately that he gained much of what he dreamed.
    When I held the rope covered hand ring of the Alvin Clarke forty inch telescope, standing in the same way he did at the Yerkes Observatory, and earlier when I grasped the guard rail on the Eifel Tower in the exact way as did Professor Einstein, I asked that same question from the time when I was forteen years old. And the answer remains the same. Be your gift. Believe and know you have one! Be relentless in seeking it out and imagine it true and real as you are real. Trust yourself to know yourself. The power within and without you will bring much more than you know. This was the message I imagined the Professor would be telling me and I liked imagining it. Emotionally it worked and still does.
    I was driven to engage myself in this comment session by virtue of something outside of myself and I believe this is much the same as what drove the Professor. An instinct and passion and the drive to be part of meaningful reason for the intelligence humans have been given by an amazing Universe that made us.
    Professor Einstein’s brain is just like most. Connected to the Universe in just the same way and made of the same stuff. He just wired it the way it allowed him and as he hoped. It made him be Albert Einstein!
    (Do not doubt intuition. Spacetime allows it!)

  30. Ron Savelo
    April 22, 2014

    I believe Einstein innately knew that HE wasn’t his brain. And that his genius had little if anything to do with his brain.

    Psychology and psychiatry and their Big Pharma cohorts have attempted (successfully for the most part) to convince us that the brain is the center of awareness and intelligence, the source of thought, and the basis of who we are.

    That’s because they believe that man is basically a soulless animal.

    I don’t believe we are. We are intelligent life units, souls, spirits (whatever you want to call them) occupying human bodies. Until they realize that, the authoritative quacks will continue to analyze that jello-like mass of tissue residing inside our skulls.

    They are looking in the wrong place.

    • TT
      April 22, 2014

      @Ron Savelo, You’re wrong. We’re not only mind/spirit; we’re also body. We’re a combination of mind and body. If only mind/spirit mattered, then why do we have body too.
      I gathered you’re religious, so religiously speaking, religion says God has created “everything”, so body must be also created by God, and if you’re a believer, then you should believe God created both mind and body for a reason. So God needed both mind/spirit and body to complete his creation. Besides, if you’re a believer and say only spirit/mind is valuable but body is worthless, then you’re implying God’s creation of body is worthless. How dare you call the material creation of God as “worthless” and only exalt his spiritual/mental creation? If you love everything that God created, you should love his creation of body too, as much as you love his creation of our souls/mind.
      Without body mind is worthless. And without mind body is worthless.

      • Ron Savelo
        April 22, 2014

        @TT, Hey TT, chill! First off, I made no mention of God whatsoever.

        Secondly, I didn’t say bodies were bad in any way. They’re in fact, pretty handy to have around, particularly in terms of communicating with others who also have bodies.

        It’s really quite simple. We have bodies, which include brains, which along with the rest of the nervous system, are basically used like a switchboard for controlling and handling the body. You also probably have a car, which you use to cover longer distances. But, YOU are not your car or its engine. YOU are you. YOU are a spiritual being who has opinions and thoughts and ideas. YOU are the being who I evidently pissed off with my earlier comments. Your brain didn’t get pissed off. YOU got pissed off, which was followed by YOU taking YOUR fingers to a keyboard where you proceeded to slam me for being sacrilegious.

        We’re all entitled to our opinions. My opinion is we all consist of three parts, the physical body, a mind (not the brain, the brain is just part of the body) and YOU, an immortal being. The mind (not the brain) is the communication system between the being and the body. That’s it.

        That’s why I said that you can study brains all you want, but you will never ever figure out anything about human behavior by studying it alone. The brain in fact has very little to do with thought. It’s simply a switchboard that we use to handle and control the body. Period.

        • TT
          April 22, 2014

          In fact, it is you who sound religious, because religion believe exactly what you believe. Religion also has no value for body and only spirit is important/valuable to it.
          PS you did not “pissed me off” you just are wrong, so I had to correct you.

          • Ron Savelo
            April 23, 2014

            @TT Just to clarify, what exactly is your problem? Are you simply against all religions, or are you simply a body worshiper who thinks anyone who believes man is basically a spirit, is WRONG? If so, that’s totally okay with me. We actually can both be right.

  31. Pitah
    April 22, 2014

    No one seems to address a preliminary question that should be obvious: is there any interest in studying Mr Einstein’s brain at all, if we consider the fact that he was in permanent contact with REAL geniuses through his job as clerk in a patent office, and that facts tend to indicate he merely arranged the work of others to reach “his” famous conclusions. So if anything, it’s not surprising that his brain is in no way different from a really smart counterfeit or impersonator. His obsessive reluctance to be called “genius” etc, mistakenly taken for humility, documents his guilt feeling about all that stage. What?

    • TT
      April 22, 2014

      You’re ridiculous. Are you saying Einstein was a “fraud” and he stole others scientists works for himself? Whom do you have in mind? Be more specific. You can’t just say he stole other scientists. Who are they? What’s their names. Besides, science is always a collective work; all scientists have to use each others discoveries to complete their individual discoveries. If you can’t understand this fact about science, you don’t know anything about science and scientific process.
      Einstein revolutionized the world of Physics. But those who were jealous of his greatness always tried to undermine his achievements, even today.

  32. Will Thornburg
    April 22, 2014

    Very bad journalistic form using a false headline for your story. The fact that you say it’s “a bit misleading” in your first sentence is a second falsehood. I expect more from National Geographic.

  33. Eric Lipps
    April 22, 2014

    Whatever one thinks of Einstein as a person, of his achievements, or even of his brain–or, more generally, of the mind-body problem–what was done with his remains was a desecration. If he had donated them to research, or said nothing at all about what was to be done with his body, that would have been one thing–but he had explicitly stated his body was to be cremated and the ashes scattered to prevent exactly the kind of oohing and aahing over them which actually occurred.

  34. conrado fontanilla
    April 22, 2014

    Einstein did not invent mathematical systems like Euclid’s and Riemannian geometry. But he mastered computations and knew when to use them. Euclid’s did not deal on the dimension of time, whereas Riemannian did. Combining them, Einstein came up with space-time, to account for gravity which he said is a curvature of space-time. E=mc2 is not a theory of relativity. It is a statement of fact that Einstein derived from his special theory of relativity couched in mathematics. Once it was verified by Enrico Fermi and Lise Mietner and company it provided proof of Einstein’s special theory. The test for Einstein’s mathematical computations is validity. To prove it by way of science, whose test is truth, Einstein derived a statement of fact. Since E =mc2 is true, the special theory is true by way of deductive logic. (That c2 is c squared that this software cannot show.)

  35. tom arnall
    April 23, 2014

    “Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

  36. PNG
    April 23, 2014

    At one level, I’m sorry Einstein’s last wishes weren’t honored, but between the weirdness of the tale itself, and the weirdness of many of the comments above, I can’t help but laugh. Sometimes I just have to laugh at the strangeness of our species.

  37. James Bedu Kojo Graham
    April 23, 2014

    Albert Einstein was a regular human being.we are potential genuises.

    Because once we are human beings we can thrive, achieve, dream work and change the world.

    just look at the house you luve in, it is evidence of genius in the builders.

    achievement goes beyond physics.A to Z counts.

    by the way looking for an American woman to date online.
    just email me at Berlioz.highway1000@yandex.com for romantic and sex chat.yoll.

    • TT
      April 24, 2014

      @James Bedu Kojo Graham,
      No, you’re wrong. Not every human being is capable of achieving what Einstein achieved, even if he/she works harder than him. We’re not all “equal” when it comes to having intelligence or talent. Only some of us, in fact only few of us, are exceptionally better than the rest in intelligence or talent. And those exceptional ones (“genius” ones) are much more intelligent or talented than the rest of us, which is the rest of human population on earth.
      I’d say only about 1% of the world population is exceptionally intelligent or talented. 99% of the world population are either ordinary/average and below average. Some are even retarded.
      If we can’t accept this truth that not everybody is equally intelligent or talented, then we’re making the biggest mistake, and that would result in having lowIQ people and talent-less individuals to take over the activities of society and ruin everything for us(as it’s happening already), only because we stupidly and mistakenly believe “we all are equal”. No we all are NOT equal. “Equality” is an illusion; it doesn’t exist in reality, and it can’t exist in reality, only in our stupid minds it can. We all are just DIFFERENT.

  38. Alex Werner
    April 27, 2014

    And somebody got paid to write this uninformed piece of trash? There are lots of bloggers out there who write much deeper and more interesting analyses WITHOUT GETTING PAID. Please, stop adding noise to the system.

  39. Ella
    April 28, 2014

    “And he knew it would be bullshit.”

    Probably use more elegant prose… and yes the title is misleading, it was probably too late to determine how special his brain was but clearly there would have been what are more often referred to as abnormalities – as opposed to specialness.

  40. octavian toma
    April 29, 2014

    I guess there is no place for discussion here. It looks like Einstein would have never approved the whole research on his brain.

    As long as I know, and all those who ever tried to publish some human or animal research know, one of the first questions the reviewers are asking is about the existence of consent.

    As long as there is no explicit consent left from Einstein himself and there is real doubt about the post mortem manufactured documents, why on Earth would scientific publications like The Lancet even considered publishing the study? Is this not a breach of the research ethic?

  41. Arrowsmith
    May 9, 2014

    Informed consent was not a requirement for research of this nature in 1955. That said, both Hans Albert Einstein ( his son) and Einstein’s executor granted permission to anatomically study the brain.

  42. Simiyu
    May 14, 2014

    More than two decades ago as a student at a college of health sciences, I had the dubious distinction of having been one among those who have had the tremendous privilege, of gazing upon a preserved histology microscopic slide, under magnification, of what was alleged to be part of the brain of one Albert Einstein.

    The endeavor was extremely frustrating, given the great significance of the alleged subject, precisely because one could not, save with a great amount difficulty, locate any neuron under the field of view. Once located, however, one could not help but notice, with some amazement, the exaggerated prominence of the very sparsely populated pyramidal neurons, as well as their highly branched dendritic processes in comparison with similarly matched slides from other subjects.

    The most prevalent conjecture then, was that a “superior” brain may indeed be a function or the result of “mental exercise”, rather than any anatomical abstraction.

  43. Sylvia
    June 26, 2014

    Well, Einstein was not good in math?????? His entire theory was based on calculations. Also, he spend years isolated doing math. Also, he had competition with the best mathematicians of his time. He proved his theories through mathematical calculation. His field equation, the cosmological constant, the fact that general relativity is consistent with the conservation of energy and momentum. Also, he was the first to perfect Newton’s Law of gravitation. All were very very complex math. His theories were not based on imagination. Saying that he was not good at math is like saying Shakespeare could not write and Picasso was no painter.
    Also, Harvey took his brains out not because he wanted to become famous or not because he wanted to enjoy negative publicity. But imagine, the hostility he had to overcome. Only to publish lies. But how does the professor of Pace University Hines know these are lies. She said Einstein was not a good mathematician anyways.

    • Virginia Hughes
      June 26, 2014

      And how, may I ask, do you know what Harvey’s motives were?

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