Albert Einstein's death
The saga of Albert Einstein’s brain is extreme but emblematic.
After the physicist’s death in 1955, the pathologist Thomas Harvey cut his brain into 240 cube-shaped blocks from which microscopic slides were prepared; like relics of a medieval saint, some of these pieces and slides were sent over the years to devotees around the world. By the time of Einstein’s death, the relic status of “elite brains” was nothing new. Investigations into the gross anatomy of genius’s brains was underway by the mid–nineteenth century, and after Lenin’s death in 1924, Oskar Vogt sliced his brain more finely than Harvey would slice Einstein’s.