Exhibitions

Albert Einstein’s Brain

The Mütter Museum is one of only two places in the world where you can see pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain. Brain sections, 20 microns thick and stained with cresyl violet, are preserved in glass slides on display in the main Museum Gallery.

Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein’s journey in the world did not end at his death in at age 76 in 1955; in some ways it had just begun. When the physicist died in New Jersey, pathologist Thomas Harvey, MD, autopsied the body and removed Einstein’s brain without the family’s permission. Dr. Harvey eventually received permission to keep the brain, but only on the condition that it be used for scientific research. 

For decades, Harvey kept the brain of one of the world’s greatest minds in a glass jar, sometimes in a cider box under a beer cooler. Harvey dissected the brain into 240 blocks and made 1,000 microscopic slides of the brain tissue. Dr. Harvey sent pieces of the brain to researchers all over the world. 

For decades, Harvey kept the brain of one of the world’s greatest minds in a glass jar, sometimes in a cider box under a beer cooler.

Scientists who have examined his brain have concluded that it is not normal. While Einstein’s brain weighs less than the brain of an average adult male, 2.7lbs versus 3 lbs, the inferior parietal region of the brain is 15% larger than in an average brain. Some scientists think that the brain lacks an anatomical crevice called the Sylvian fissure. 

Neuroscientists speculate that these features could account for Einstein’s increased mathematical and spatial reasoning skills. Also, Einstein’s brain lacks several degenerative changes that would normally be present in a 76-year-old. Despite these observations, the source of Einstein’s genius remains a mystery.

Dr. Harvey eventually donated the remainder of Einstein’s brain to the pathology department at Princeton Hospital. The Mütter Museum received these slides of the brain from Lucy B. Rorke-Adams, MD, Senior Neuropathologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Clinical Professor of Pathology, Neurology, and Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a longtime Fellow of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. 

The Mütter Museum helps the public appreciate the mysteries and beauty of the human body while understanding the history of diagnosis and treatment of disease.

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  • Philadelphia, PA 19103
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  • 10am–5pm
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