Weird History: Albert Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen

There are plenty of fascinating stories about the life and work of legendary theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. But one that people rarely know about is that his brain was stolen after his death.

Einstein is often considered one of the smartest people to have ever lived. This is why it isn’t surprising that scientists wanted to study his brain. Einstein himself wasn’t very fond of the idea and left instructions to cremate his body after his death. His wish was granted, but not entirely.

Following Einstein’s death on April 18, 1955, at Princeton Hospital, pathologist Thomas Harvey, who was called to perform the autopsy, decided to remove the brain of the legendary scientist. He did so without anyone asking him or having any permission to do so.

Once his actions were discovered, Harvey managed to get approval from Einstein’s son, Hans. Reluctantly agreeing, Hans added a stipulation that any study of his father’s brain has to be done for scientific purposes.

Don’t think it can get weirder than this?

While Harvey got the approval, he was soon fired from Princeton Hospital. He took the brain with him, took detailed photos, and later sliced it up into pieces. The pieces were preserved in a celloidin. At one point, Harvey kept the pieces of Einstein’s brain in his basement.

Years later, Harvey and a team of researchers have published several studies about their findings from examining Einstein’s brain. The studies mainly concluded that Einstein’s brain looked different compared to most other brains, but never got traction in the scientific community.

The pieces of Einstein’s brain were later returned to his heirs, who donated them to Philadelphia’s Mütter Medical Museum.

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