Albert Einstein’s Brain

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A recent look at Albert Einstein’s Brain was a top story online from CNN.  Although it is certainly fascinating when in today’s medical field of neuroscientists, they can pinpoint the different parts of the brain and tell you how Einstein’s Brain was unusual, from the ordinary brain. 

The top medical reporter from CNN admitted he did not have all the answers, but he certainly was thrilled to learn the difference between the average person, and Einstein.

Einstein

It was before this story came across the network that I took an interest in Albert Einstein since he did frequent and reside for months for many years off and on, in the area where I grew up – visiting his friends, Thomas Edison, Steinmetz, and even Henry Ford.  I laughed to myself, perhaps it was the air we breathed, but knowing how contaminated the soil is today I am sure it had nothing to do with the environment.

On April 18, 1955, the brain of Albert Einstein was in the hands of a pathologist at Princeton Hospital, in Princeton, New Jersey. It has been written that Einstein was a character in his own right – you would never miss him if he passed you on the sidewalk, and the doctor was thinking the same thing as he stared at the lifeless body of a genius.  His life was snapped away quickly by a ruptured aneurysm.

The news of Einstein’s death brought reporters to the hospital, but inside the room was silence so deadly, you could hear nothing – history has noted a close friend of Einstein was standing at the foot of the stretcher when the doctor lifted his scalp from the top of his head.  As reported on CNN only this week, people are still searching and finally learning the difference in the brain of Einstein, and the average person.  The pathologist was also ready to unleash the news to the press that he found out why this man was a genius, through his work, he would uncover a new approach to determining who would win the Pulitzer and who would be “Driving Miss Daisy.”

I can quote what Einstein worked on – but ask me to explain it is for someone else to write – Einstein was and still is above most human beings, in his theory of relativity and how space and time are not absolute but a function of space and time in another frame.  He had demonstrated how light was regarded as a wave phenomenon but he believed it to be a stream of particles.  His knowledge, and theory about space, time, gravity, energy and motion – and not to forget radiation, went beyond any other scientist.

He began to be known in 1919 when his theory concerning gravity fascinated scientists all over the world.  He told us space was “curved by matter,” and during a total eclipse of the sun Einstein’s prediction concerning the degree of deflection was nearly perfect;  he measured light – the waves coming from stars. So be it the beginning of the genius of his time, and as people still believe, the most brilliant man to have walked the earth.

The pathologist wanted a taste of fame, and his job was to examine the brain of the brightest man known to mankind.  I still can hear the noiseless room, the clanging of the scalpel.  I wonder if he was thinking about the years he himself had to take himself out of medical school, as many, due to a case of tuberculosis, he spent his time recouping at a sanitorium, medicine was not available to treat the disease.  His plans before this – a career in economics, but a friend convinced him otherwise.

It would be the year 1912 when Doctor Thomas Stoltz Harvey, the pathologist was hired at Princeton Hospital.  Although Einstein’s home was in Princeton, he spent many long years along the side of those scientists who worked at the General Electric Company in Schenectady, N.Y.  It was in New Jersey where he spent most of his time, and his doctors were from Princeton Hospital, but they would leave their place of work, and draw blood from the scientist at his home since his health was deteriorating.  It would be Doctor Harvey who volunteered to go to the home of Einstein, and meet this genius and draw his blood.  Harvey was known to have a wonderful talk with this well-known man, but he never thought the next time he would see him would be in the morgue.

Imagine being the doctor who would have the chance to hold his brain in his hands, but he took his time, so as not to damage the brain in any way.   All this time the doctor knew Einstein was going to be cremated, and his family had no idea that the brain was not part of the cremation.  When his son Hans, admitted it was him who requested a scientific examination of the brain.

According to the records the pathologist had plans to section the brain, he already knew it was within the normal weight of a male brain, slightly toward the lower limits, it was told to the public that the weight of a male is from 1200 – 1600 grams and Einstein’s brain weighed 1230 grams.  Before sectioning the brain he took photos and measurements of the brain.  Doctor Harvey then transported the brain to a laboratory in Philadelphia where he was employed before he worked at Princeton Hospital.  Here, in the lab, Harvey cut Einstein’s brain into 170 pieces.  This process took Harvey three months to complete.  The specialists who worked with Harvey ended up with over 100 slides,  and the slides were then given to the experts to do their job, along with Harvey.

It would not be until the 1980’s when Marion Diamond contacted Doctor Harvey about the brain of Einstein, explaining she wanted samples of both the right and left superior frontal and right and left inferior parietal lobes.  Harvey agreed and delivered these sample in small jars, and he knew after 25 years the cells were well preserved.

Diamond from California and her students sliced the pieces counting nerve cells and glial cells.  Following what Diamond stated were months and months of counting nerve cells with the human eye, she found out Einstein had more glial cells per neuron in one area, the left inferior parietal cortex.  Although Diamond believed she found out why Einstein’s brain stood out from the normal male, she also knew it takes more than one genius’s brain for a study.  A study with rats has shown that those who use their brain more, in studies, have a greater amount of glial cells per neuron.

Diamond’s research and studies were reported in 1985 in Experimental Neurology.  It was then that Harvey asked her if she wanted to continue working with the brain but she said she had no other’s to compare with Einstein.

Harvey kept bringing the brain all over the US, where he worked, and the brain was stored in many pieces in jars and specimens on slides, but as Harvey told the country, “when Einstein was alive his brain  was alive, its cells throbbing with electrical and chemical signals, which are now gray matter stored in a closet.

The strangest part of the story is the records of the autopsy, parts of the body he cut away for examination, and the written record have disappeared.  Harvey also knew with the technology growing so rapidly in the late eighties regarding MRI’s etc., that the brain would remain for the future in case it could be cloned.  Could there be something to do with genetics, concerning the component of cerebral nerve cell chromosomes?  Still, even today after watching the CNN report concerning Einstein’s brain, the secret of genius is still not answered, and Doctor Harvey did tell reporters some time ago, “Einstein was the quintessential example of his own philosophy – Einstein said, “the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”

NOTE:  Before CNN reported on Einstein’s brain, Doctor Diamond’s theory was near perfect, but through the use of new equipment a photograph of the brain, alone, showed the larger openings where the larger number of neurons were stored.  Strangely, the parts of Einstein’s brain are located in Kansas, University of California at Berkeley, and several pieces and slides in Japan, Australia, and Germany.

Thank you, CNN for the report today, and I found it to be the perfect time to enlighten the public on the process which took place to try and find out, who or why someone is a genius.  They have said, no other man has walked the earth as brilliant as Einstein.

1 Comment
  1. Joyce White says

    Interesting article. I’m always wondering why some of us are smart and some of us are not. Either way we all are special with innate ability.

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