The Mystery of Einstein’s Brain

There are many fascinating stories about the famous scientist Albert Einstein, including the intriguing tale of what happened to his brain. When he died in 1955, Princeton pathologist, Dr. Thomas Harvey seized the chance to …

There are many fascinating stories about the famous scientist Albert Einstein, including the intriguing tale of what happened to his brain.

When he died in 1955, Princeton pathologist, Dr. Thomas Harvey seized the chance to salvage this famous brain.  Dr. Harvey felt that it might give us some clues about the origin of genius.  What happened to Einstein’s brain in the next forty years is a fascinating tale.  The distinguished brain was stored in Mason jars in a cardboard box, much of it sliced up.

In 1996 parts of it finished up in the hands of one of my colleagues at McMaster University, Professor Sandra Wittleson.  The aged Dr. Harvey left a record number of fourteen pieces of Einstein’s brain at McMaster.  These brain samples have been studied for unusual features in an attempt to discover why Einstein was particularly good at mathematical reasoning.

Dr. Wittleson found Einstein’s brain had an unusual pattern of grooves on both sides.  It was fifteen percent wider than most brains.  This may have allowed for better connections between the neurons which are important for mathematical thinking.  Unfortunately, Einstein’s brain was not compared with the brains of other mathematical geniuses.

So next time you wonder what’s special about the brain of a genius, take comfort from the fact that although Einstein’s brain was unique, so is yours.  Every brain is special in its own way.

Bob