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Image Gallery: Einstein's Brain

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein ghosts proof

(Image credit: NASA)

When Albert Einstein died at age 76 in 1955 of an abdominal aneurysm, the pathologist who autopsied him, Thomas Harvey, kept his brain.

Slides of Einstein's Brain

Mutter Museum display of Einstein's brain.

(Image credit: Evi Numen, 2011, for the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia.)

Harvey sliced hundreds of thin sections of brain tissue and placed them on microscope slides, some of which he revealed in the years following his death

Extraordinary Gray Matter

(Image credit: Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, National Museum of Health and Medicine, Silver Spring, MD)

However, Harvey kept secret 14 photographs of the brain, which were recently discovered.

More Folds, More Brain Power

(Image credit: From Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, Courtesy of National Museum of Health and Medicine)

A new analysis of those photos suggests Einstein had unusual levels of folding across his cerebral cortex, the gray matter responsible for conscious thought.

Beautiful Asymmetry

(Image credit: Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine)

Einstein had asymmetric parietal lobes, which may have super-charged his spatial abilities. A 1999 study in the Lancet found that one brain region was completely absent in Einstein, allowing his parietal lobe to take up more space.

Naturally Brainy

(Image credit: From Falk, Lepore, and Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine)

The physicist had an extra fold in the frontal lobe, an area of the brain needed for sophisticated tasks such as abstract thought and prediction.

Abstract Genius

(Image credit: From Falk, Lepore, and Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine)

Here, an illustration by the the authors of the new paper shows the four frontal lobe ridges (labeled 1 through 4) as opposed to the three typically found in the human brain.

A Brain Dissected

(Image credit: From Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine)

The red shaded region marks a spot where Harvey accidentally cut through Einstein's brain during the autopsy procedure.

Amazing Folds

(Image credit: From Falk, Lepore, and Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine)

Einstein was probably born with many of the brain differences that contributed to his genius.

Another View of Einstein's Brain

(Image credit: From Falk, Lepore & Noe, 2012, courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine)

However, a lifetime thinking about physics likely also shaped his brain.