Search for Albert Einstein's Brain Part 2

About one man's search for the brain of genius Albert Einstein.


He did not want 112 Mercer Street to become a museum. He did not want his remains available to admirers making pilgrimages. His family shared his zeal for privacy. By the time the news conference began, an autopsy had been performed. The hospital pathologist, Dr. Thomas S.Harvey, had presided. He worked alone, under the eyes of Dr. Otto Nathan, a friend and colleague of the deceased, who was the designated executor of the Einstein literary estate. For a period of time Dr. Dean was also in the autopsy room. It was Dr. Dean who signed the death certificate. Official cause: rupture of the arteriosclerotic. Birthplace: Ulm, Germany. Citizen of: U.S.A. Occupation: scientist.

If the assembled reporters hoped for any details of the autopsy, they were disappointed; they learned only the cause of Einstein's death. The body was not available for viewing. It was taken to the Mather Funeral Home in Princeton, where it sat for an hour and a half, until it was driven to the Ewing Crematory in Trenton. At four-thirty in the afternoon the body was cremated. Later Dr. Nathan took the ashes and dispersed them in a river, presumably the Delaware.

But part of the remains were spared. Einstein had requested his brain be removed for posthumous study, and his family bid it be done at the autopsy. It was placed in a jar. A New York Times reporter on Apr. 20 wrote an article headlined "Key Sought in Einstein Brain." It talked of a study to be performed on the brain and the possible implications. The study, said the story, "may shed light on one of nature's greatest mysteries--the secret of genius." More details were to be released on how the study would be performed. Another press conference was scheduled for the following week.

The Einstein family was upset by the article and told the doctors entrusted with the brain that there was to be no publicity whatsoever concerning the study. The press conference never took place. Einstein's brain had gone into hiding.

"I want you to find Einstein's brain."

Of course I knew who Albert Einstein was. I Knew, like most people, about the theory of relativity, but could provide little detail. Something about e equaling mc2, and something about atomic energy, and something about how time and space differed depending on your point of view. I Knew it changed the world, and I knew that although it was responsible for nuclear weapons, the theory itself was a step forward, and Einstein was recognized as a humanitarian as well as a genius. I didn't know that his brain was still around.

Neither, really, did my editor. He had done some work on the subject of the brain and had wondered what had happened to this brain of brains, this organic masterpiece of gray matter and cerebral cortex. He had read the last pages of Ronald Clark's Einstein: The Life and Times, where the author says of Einstein, "He had insisted his brain be used for research," and then drops the subject. And my editor had heard all sorts of rumors. Einstein's brain was lost. Einstein's brain was examined and found to be normal. Einstein's brain was hidden in a vault, frozen for cloning. And so on.

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