Who stole Albert Einstein’s brain? It vanished mysteriously after the autopsy. Dissected, and placed into five specimen jars of formaldehyde solution. Hidden away by the medical examiner, Princeton’s Dr. Thomas Harvey, who performed the initial postmortem examination. Many years of boredom accumulated while the brain matter remnants were secreted away, sitting on a shelf slowly pickling in the doctors' basement under a collective layer of dust. Was Einstein a genius? Some say he was highly intelligent, others aren’t sure. In theory, it’s all relative. Dr. Harvey was fired from his position for refusing to return the brain.
Upon examination and further evaluation of Einstein’s brain bits, it was never conclusively determined. True, the cerebrum was slightly larger and weighed more than the average noodle. His noggin had a shorter stem, than most medulla oblongata. But nothing exceptional or unusual was ever discovered. The forensics pathologist, Harvey, wanted the notoriety. Not necessarily monetary gain, but to be outstanding in in obscure medical journals. He was no expert. In the name of scientific research he became the most infamous quack who hijacked the globular goo, before the crematorium even received the corpse. Poor Albert, and what was left of his mortal remains, and the request of final cremation wishes. Einstein’s family was conned after the fact. Was it in the best interest of science to salvage his brain from the fiery furnace? Probably not, but it makes for sensational news fodder.
What makes all of these supposed facts so compelling, is the unbelievable connection between the notorious, now, much older eccentric sawbones, after all, it was four decades later. Dr. Harvey cherished a weird friendship with the king of the Beats, William Burroughs. A poetic tragicomedy of errors in Burroughs’ waning years. Both men were well into their late-80s, living quietly in Lawrence, Kansas. They had nothing to lose or gain. In another strange twist, Harvey was his next-door neighbor, and frequent confidante and drinking buddy. They’d spend hours on Burroughs' front porch, rocking in their chairs, shooting pistols, smoking joints, spinning yarns, and sipping vodka and Coke cocktails. Supposedly, Burroughs boasted to friends, or anyone who listened, he could have a piece of Einstein’s brain anytime he wanted. Like a slice of pizza, or apple pie. It’s unknown if Burroughs actually partook of a piece of the pilfered sponge of brain matter. Rumor has it the cerebral leftovers were stored in a pink Tupperware container stashed in an ice—filled beer cooler along with the chilled beers.
It was reported that hazing incidents occur at the University of Kansas, where Harvey, and Burroughs haunt the halls. Pre-med students will pinch a tiny morsel off of Einstein’s brined brains from the specimen jar. Not only that, but it’s a prerequisite in a misguided ritual homage. Squeezing out the excess formaldehyde, sprinkle a generous dose of salt onto the hand for licking after a shot of cheap tequila. Then, quickly sucking the brainy juice until the formaldehyde numbed your mouth, lips, and throat, leaving you unable to speak or breathe, much less swallow. Unable to feel your teeth or cheeks. It’s not a cheery toast for the squeamish. Reaching the level of freak-show exhibit status, rubes would gladly pay a dollar to peep a peek at Einstein’s brain.
As for Einstein the man, he believed in no gods. He wrote: “The word of God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible, a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can change this for me.” When a close friend of his died, he wrote in a letter to the deceased’s sister: “He has left this strange world a little before me. This means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction made between past, present, and future is nothing more than a persistent, stubborn illusion.” Much like his brains becoming more than the whole universe of its parts.
It’s no wonder that people gawk at what they don’t understand. The great mystery of us. And crazy folks like Dr. Harvey knew the value of what he possessed. Because, not only did the unsavory doctor take the brain, he also removed the physicist's eyeballs. He gave them to Henry Abrams, Einstein's eye doctor. They still remain in a safe deposit box in NYC, and are frequently rumored to be up for the auction block or on some dark web eBay site. As the Professor was often quoted, “Do we learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning. He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed. A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.” Talk about seeing spooky things at a distance. The ayes have it. The eyes, that is.