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Everything you know about the brain is wrong

Within a few hours of Albert Einstein’s death in 1955, the great scientist’s brain had been surgically removed from his skull and placed in formalin. The autopsy and the events surrounding it were shrouded in secrecy and marked by contradictory claims. The brain was extracted by a hospital pathologist named Thomas Harvey in Princeton, New Jersey, where Einstein lived during the final years of his life. After the autopsy was completed, officials at Princeton University asked Harvey to turn over the brain to the university, but he refused. The pathologist claimed, but could not prove, that Einstein’s family had given him permission to keep the brain indefinitely. Thomas Harvey was determined to keep Einstein’s brain for himself.

For a long time, the whereabouts of Einstein’s brain remained a closely guarded secret known only to a select few. To the larger public, the iconic brain seemed to have vanished, probably forever. The mystery had been nearly forgotten when, in 1978, a journalist named Steven Levy tracked down Thomas Harvey in Wichita, Kansas. Levy was determined to get some answers. After relentless questioning, Harvey “sighed deeply and pulled from a cardboard box two glass jars with sectioned pieces of Einstein’s brain.” At long last, Einstein’s brain had been recovered.

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