Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Einstein timeline

German-born genius Albert Einstein died at the age of 76 in 1955. Here is list of posthumous dates associated with the physicist's famous brain:

1955: An autopsy was performed at Princeton Hospital by Dr. Thomas Harvey (2nd image), who removed the 1230g brain for study, took it to the University of Pennsylvania, and spent the next 3 months sectioning, mounting, and staining hundreds of microscope slides. Harvey retained 2 sets for his own research and distributed the other 10 to pathologists of his choice. After learning of this, Einstein's family granted retroactive permission for the removal and study of the brain, provided the results were only published in scientific journals and were not sensationalized. (Read more about Dr. Harvey's career here.)

1978: Journalist Steven Levy interviewed Dr. Harvey, then living in Wichita, Kansas, and published an article in New Jersey Monthly entitled, "I Found Einstein's Brain."

1994: Japanese math professor Sugimoto Kenji of Kinki University tracks down the brain. In the documentary Relics: Einstein's Brain, he asks Harvey for a specimen of the brain, to which Harvey consents and slices off a portion of the brain-stem (watch clip here).

1998: Harvey delivered the remaining uncut portion of Einstein's brain to Princeton pathologist Dr. Elliot Krauss, who analyzed it and found parts of it to have a higher proportion of glial cells than the average male brain.

2000: Michael Paterniti publishes the memoir Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein's Brain about his cross-country journey in the late 1990s with Dr. Harvey to return the brain to Einstein's granddughhter (read excerpt here, review here).

2005: On the 50th anniversary of Einstein's death, Harvey (by then 92) gave interviews about the brain from his home in New Jersey.

2010: Dr.  Harvey’s estate donated his Einstein specimens to the National Museum of Health an d Medicine.

Yesterday: The National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago, which began digitizing Harvey's collection earlier this year, offered the images and data about the specimens as an iPhone app. Said the app's designer Steve Landers, "I'd like to think Einstein would have been excited."
For previous brain blogposts, start here:

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