Search for Albert Einstein's Brain Part 6

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


Without another word, Dr. Harvey rose from his seat and walked around the desk, crossing in front of me to get to the corner of the room. He bent down over the clutter on the floor, stopping at the red plastic cooler. He picked it up and put it on a chair next to me.

Einstein's brain in a beer cooler?

No. He turned away from the cooler, going back to the corner. Of the two cardboard boxes stacked there, he picked up the top one and moved it to the side. Then he bent down over the bottom box, which had a logo reading "Costa Cider" on the side. There was no top to the box, and it looked filled with crumpled newspapers. Harvey, still wearing a sheepish grin, thrust his hand into the newspapers and emerged with a large mason jar. Floating inside the jar, in a clear liquid solution, were several pieces of matter. A conch shell-shaped mass of wrinkly material the color of clay after kiln firing. A fist-sized chunk of grayish, lined substance, the apparent consistency of sponge. And in a separate pouch, a mass of pinkish-white strings resembling bloated dental floss. All the material was recognizably brain matter.

Dr. Harvey pointed out that the conch-shaped mass was Einstein's cerebellum, the gray blob a chunk of cerebral cortex, and the stringy stuff a group of aortic vessels.

"It's all in sections, except for this," he said. I had risen up to look into the jar, but now I was sunk in my chair, speechless. My eyes were fixed upon that jar as I tried to comprehend that these pieces of gunk bobbing up and down had caused a revolution in physics and quite possibly changed the course of civilization. There it was! Before I could regain my wits, Dr. Harvey had reached back into the box for another jar. This one was larger, and since it was not a mason jar, the top had been fixed in place by yellowed masking tape. Inside it were dozens of rectangular translucent blocks, the size of Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, each with a little sticker reading "Cerebral Cortex" and bearing a number. Encased in every block was a shriveled blob of gray matter.

All along, I had feared that if I ever did get to see Einstein's brain, the experience would be a terrific letdown. My fears were unjustified. For a moment, with the brain before me, I had been granted a rare peek into an organic crystal ball. Swirling in formaldehyde was the power of the smashed atom, the mystery of the universe's black holes, the utter miracle of human achievement.

Whether you see it or merely contemplate it, there is something very awesome in the postmortem remains of Albert Einstein's brain. It is something of ourselves at our best, or something of what we humans can be--using our own awesome powers to work out the relation between ourselves and our surroundings. The fact that 23 years of study indicate that Einstein's brain is physiologically no different from yours or mine seems to bear this out. "God does not play dice with the universe," Albert Einstein liked to say, and he spent the bulk of his life trying to prove it. I think that he would be happy to find that, with no better a roll than most of us, he managed to beat the house!

SOURCE: New Jersey Monthly, August 1978.

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