Search for Albert Einstein's Brain Part 3

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


So the editor had written to Clark, asking him what happened to the brain. The author of Einstein's standard biography wrote back saying, "I'm afraid I don't know the answer, but have a recollection that it was preserved somewhere." He suggested contacting Otto Nathan, the executor of the Einstein estate. Nathan replied promptly. His oneparagraph letter confirmed that the brain had been removed before cremation, and stated that the pathologist in charge had been a Dr. Thomas Harvey.

The letter was a year old. Now my editor wanted to know where the brain was. And he wanted me to find it.

"Sure," I said.

I had to wait a long time. Then a voice came over the phone. "Mr. Seligman will be right with you." it said. While someone in the hospital paged him, I read some more of a book explaining relativity. The brain I was looking for had changed our perception of the universe, and since Walter Seligman was a vice-president of the Princeton Medical Center, where the brain had been removed from the highly recognizable head of Albert Einstein, I hoped for a clue.

Finally he reached a phone. "Yes, the operation took place here, "he conceded. "But there are no records." He paused." The only person who would know anything about it would be the pathologist who performed the operation. Dr. Thomas Harvey."

Where would Dr. Harvey be found?

"I'm afraid I don't know. He left here years ago."

"You're looking for Einstein's brain?" said a co-worker. "I have a friend who saw a picture of it."


"She's a medical student in California. Her teacher had slides of it. Here's her number."

I called. The woman, it seemed, had not seen the slide, but had once been invited to by her instructor, a Dr. Moore. Supposedly he had in his possession slides that pictured Einstein's brain. She wasn't sure how he got them. She gave me his number.

Dr. Moore was willing to talk.

"I worked on the study of the brain," he said. "In Chicago. Sets of the section were sent to various experts for analysis. The man I was working for, Dr. Sidney Schulman, specialized in the thalamus, and we got portions of Einstein's thalamus, sectioned and stained for microscopic study."

The thalamus is a part of the brain which transmits impulses to the cerebral cortex.

"As far as the thalamus is concerned," said Dr. Moore, "Einstein's brain cells were like anyone else's at that age. If you showed the slides blind to someone, he would say that they came from any old man. Even so, I took Kodachromes of a couple slides to show to my students."

I wondered if Dr. Moore knew where the brain section came from and whether he knew of parts of the brain that might still be around.

"I'm not sure. I think the stuff we got was from some pathologist from Princeton-"

"A Dr. Thomas Harvey?"

"That's the name."

"Have you heard anything from Dr. Harvey? Do you know where he is?"

"No, I haven't heard from him since he took back the samples. And I have never seen anything published. Do you know where to reach him?"

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