High-rez scan of Einstein's brain slide from Philadelphia's Mütter Museum

By Cory Doctorow


Last week, I toured Philadelphia's Mütter Museum -- the Philadelphia College of Surgeons' astounding collection of pathological oddities -- and was treated to a sneak peak at the museum's latest acquisition: 46 microscope slides from Albert Einstein's brain. They were donated by Dr. Lucy Rorke-Adams, one of the College's trustees. Mütter curator Anna Dhody was kind enough to scan one of the slides at high resolution for us, and you can click through the image above to get it at full rez. The slides are now part of the Mütter's permanent collection, and are just another reason to visit this remarkable collection.

The slides were prepared in 1955 in the pathology lab of Dr. William Ehrich, Chief of Pathology at the Philadelphia General Hospital and the Graduate School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania. Five sets of slides were prepared in the lab, one set was given to Dr. Ehrich by Thomas Harvey, MD, the physician who performed the post-mortem exam on Einstein at Princeton Hospital.

After Dr. Ehrich died in 1967, his widow gave them to Allen Steinberg, MD. Dr. Steinberg gave them to Lucy Rorke-Adams, MD, Senior Neuropathologist, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Clinical Professor of Pathology, Neurology and Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, and a longtime Fellow of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

Mütter Museum

Published 9:55 am Wed, Nov 23, 2011

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

16 Responses to “High-rez scan of Einstein's brain slide from Philadelphia's Mütter Museum”

  1. BillKosMD says:

    Compared to what?

  2. GlenJordan says:

    Without analysis and the context of other brains it’s a relic with no scientific value.

  3. pKp says:

    Bit of culture : here’s Roland Barthes’ (famous French semiologist) take on the craze around Einstein’s brain : http://www.scribd.com/doc/4612523/Mythologies-by-Roland-Barthes-as-selected-and-translated-by-Annette-Lavers (page 68, somewhat garbled).

  4. Bevatron Repairman says:

    I love the Mutter Museum.  I went to a wedding and wedding reception there at the College of Surgeons.  Quite fun to enjoy a cocktail while looking at drawers full of Chief Justice John Marshall’s kidney stones.

  5. Charlie B says:

    Women practically lined up to get into Al’s pants, despite his poor fashion sense, poor speaking skills, reputation for poor personal hygiene, and poor treatment of the women in his life.  Presumably they were attracted by his brain, which is why the rest of us heterosexual males are extremely interested in finding out more about it.  OK, I’m mostly kidding… mostly.

    The Mütter is only one of Philly’s awesome oddball museums, though – don’t forget the Wagner and the Yellin Yards!

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Women practically lined up to get into Al’s pants…Presumably they were attracted by his brain

      Yup, his brain.  Definitely not any other organ in his head.  Nope.

  6. Thanks Cory. This is at very least an important symbolic gesture in the fight for open access scientific data.

    However, do you think you could get some more information about the slide (without which it is fairly useless)? In particular, for context, the slide needs to include which part of the brain this was taken from, which way it was sectioned, and what stain(s) were used.

  7. Awesomer says:

    Dang. He looks really smart.

  8. EricT says:

    I remember hearing an anecdote somewhere concerning how, during the initial removal of Einstein’s brain, someone dropped it on the floor.  Has anyone else heard that, or am I just imagining it?

  9. Centered is the “Special Relativity” neuron that gave him all that fame. A couple of neurons over is the one that made him stick his tongue out for a photograph.

  10. robdobbs says:

    I had understood that he was buried without his brain, that had gone missing because of labs around the world taking their own little samples. 

  11. Amelia_G says:

    I don’t know anything about what people have published about Einstein’s brain–haven’t even taken the time here, but I will!–but I can’t help thinking back to a teevee documentary I listened to while translating overnight in a hotel room somewhere that claimed Einstein’s biggest theories were come up with while he was “with” a woman physics student, unusual at the time, whom he knocked up and ended her career. Eventually, she was killed  by their schizophrenic son while caring for him alone.

  12. I liked everything about that museum except for the no photo policy. I guess that at least it forced me to enjoy the items rather than spend time trying to take cool pictures.