Many have speculated about what was going on inside Albert Einstein’s brain. The author of the Theory of Relativity and one of the most brilliant theoretical physicists of all time possessed a brain that came to be synonymous with the word genius. While the mystery of his brain’s inner workings continues to be a topic of intrigue, the mystery of what happened to the brain itself was also a mystery for many years, until it turned up in the most unlikely of places. Einstein died on April 18, 1955. Dr. Steven Harvey, a pathologist at Princeton Hospital, was on duty that evening and removed the revered scientist’s brain for study. There was only one problem with that: Dr. Harvey was not authorized to do so. Einstein had left instructions that no study was to be performed of his brain. Harvey not only removed the brain, but he also took Einstein’s eyeballs. Einstein’s eye doctor, Henry Abrams, received the eyes, which were, at last report, in a safe deposit box in New York City.
As for the brain, Harvey kept it in his possession. He insisted he needed to hold on to the brain for scientific studies. One problem with this argument was that Harvey was not a brain specialist by any means. When he refused to hand it over to Princeton Hospital, he was dismissed from his job.
Harvey took the brain to a Philadelphia hospital, where a technician sectioned it into over two hundred blocks. Harvey gave some of the specimens away and put the rest in two formalin-filled jars, which he stored in the basement of his house in Princeton.
Harvey moved to Wichita, Kansas. There he worked as a medical supervisor and kept the brain in a cardboard cider box, stashed under a beer cooler. It was in 1978 while he was living in Wichita that a reporter for the New Jersey Monthly tracked him down and wrote a story, revealing to the world that the Father of Relativity’s brain was in such an inglorious location.
From Wichita, Harvey moved to Weston, Missouri and continued to practice medicine until losing his medical license for failing to pass a competency exam. Occasionally a reporter would track him down and ask what he was doing with the brain. Harvey would confidently proclaim that he was just one year away from publishing his results. He would continue to give the same answer until 1985 when he finally published the results of his findings. The study was done primarily by Dr. Marian Diamond, who concluded that Einstein had more glial cells in his brain than typical.
Dr. Harvey died in 2007. Three years later, his estate transferred the remains of Einstein’s brain to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, as well as fourteen photographs of the whole brain.