The Tragic Story of How Einstein’s Brain Was Stolen and Wasn’t Even Special

My headline may be a bit misleading. Albert Einstein, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who gave the world the theory of relativity, E = mc2, and the law of the photoelectric effect, obviously had a special brain. So special that when he died in Princeton Hospital, on April 18, 1955, the pathologist on call, Thomas Harvey, stole it.

Einstein didn’t want his brain or body to be studied; he didn’t want to be worshipped. “He had left behind specific instructions regarding his remains: cremate them, and scatter the ashes secretly in order to discourage idolaters,” writes Brian Burrell in his 2005 book, Postcards from the Brain Museum.

But Harvey took the brain anyway, without permission from Einstein or his family. “When the fact came to light a few days later, Harvey managed to solicit a reluctant and retroactive blessing from Einstein’s son, Hans Albert, with the now-familiar stipulation that any investigation would be conducted solely in the interest of science,” Burrell writes.

Harvey soon lost his job at the Princeton hospital and took the brain to Philadelphia, where it was carved into 240 pieces and preserved in celloidin, a hard and rubbery form of cellulose. He divvied up the pieces into two jars and stored them in his basement.

Just when you think this story can’t get any weirder, it does. As Burrell explains (emphasis mine):

After [Harvey’s] wife threatened to dispose of the brain, he returned to retrieve it and took it with him to the Midwest. For a time he worked as a medical supervisor in a biological testing lab in Wichita, Kansas, keeping the brain in a cider box stashed under a beer cooler. He moved again, to Weston, Missouri, and practiced medicine while trying to study the brain in his spare time, only to lose his medical license in 1988 after failing a three-day competency exam. He then relocated to Lawrence, Kansas, took an assembly-line job in a plastic-extrusion factory, moved into a second-floor apartment next to a gas station, andbefriended a neighbor, the beat poet William Burroughs. The two men routinely met for drinks on Burroughs’s front porch. Harvey would tell stories about the brain, about cutting off chunks to send to researchers around the world. Burroughs, in turn, would boast to visitors that he could have a piece of Einstein any time he wanted.

(I know, right?!)

To fast forward a bit: Come 1985, Harvey and collaborators in California published the first study of Einstein’s brain, claiming that it had an abnormal proportion of two types of cells, neurons and glia. That study was followed by five others (the most recent published just this month), reporting additional differences in individual cells or in particular structures in Einstein’s brain. The researchers behind these studies say studying Einstein’s brain could help uncover the neurological underpinnings of intelligence.

But that premise is nonsense and the studies are bunk, at least according to Terence Hines, a professor of psychology at Pace University.

A couple of weeks ago, Hines presented a poster at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society annual meeting outlining all of the ways in which each of the six studies is flawed. Some highlights:

–In the original 1985 report, Harvey and his collaborators found that inBrodmann Area 39 — a region where the temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes meet — Einstein’s neuron-to-glia ratio was significantly smaller than it was in the same area in 11 control brains. But the control group was not all that well controlled: the brains came from people age 47 to 80 years old, whereas Einstein died at age 76. The controls brains were also fresh, whereas Einstein’s had been languishing in basements and beer coolers for three decades. Perhaps most problematic, counting cells is a subjective business, and the researchers performing the cell counts were not blind to which tissue was Einstein’s and which was not.

–In 1996, Harvey partnered with a scientist from Alabama and counted neurons in Einstein’s Brodmann Area 9 — part of the frontal cortex — as well as those of five controls. There were no differences in the number of neurons or the size of neurons, the study found, but Einstein’s tissue was thinner than controls. More densely packed neurons, the authors speculated, means that cell-to-cell messages travel shorter differences, which might mean faster processing speed overall. That’s quite a stretch. As Hines calls out in his poster, the finding was based on just one square millimeter of Einstein’s brain. What’s more, the authors admit to not reporting any of the ways in which Einstein’s brain was similar to controls.

–In 1999, Harvey and Canadian collaborators got Einstein’s brain into one of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, The Lancet. Based on old photographs that had been taken of Einstein’s brain before it was cut up, the researchers claimed that Einstein had an abnormal folding pattern in part of his parietal lobe, a region that has been linked to mathematical ability. They also reported that his parietal lobes were 15 percent wider, and more symmetrical, than those of control brains. Once again, though, the researchers were not blinded to which photographs showed Einstein’s brain. And though the authors were quick to make links between these supposed differences and Einstein’s mathematical prowess, Hines points out that Einstein wasn’t, in fact, a great mathematician.

The underlying problem in all of the studies is that they set out to compare a category made up of one person, an N of 1, with a nebulous category of “not this person” and an N of more than 1. With an N of 1, it’s extremely difficult to calculate the statistical variance — the likelihood that, for example, Einstein’s low neuron-to-glia ratio is real and not just a fluke of that particular region and those particular methods. Even if the statistics were sound, you’d still have the problem of attributing skills and behaviors to anatomy. There’s no way to know if X thing in Einstein’s brain made Einstein smart/dyslexic/good at math/you name it, or was just an X thing in his brain.

It makes me angry to think of all that was wasted in these investigations. There was the monetary cost of the studies — money that could have been spent on work that was not doomed from the outset to fail. There was a personal cost, in that Einstein’s family was essentially strong-armed into agreeing to participate in research that Einstein explicitly did not want to participate in. And there was a public cost, too. In popular-press accounts of these studies over the years, the public was misled about the findings and their supposed scientific value.

I’ve made this error, too, by the way. In 2012 I wrote an uncritical, cringe-worthy report on preliminary data from a neuroscience conferencecomparing brain images of Temple Grandin, one of the most famous people with autism, with those of three controls. The researchers claimed to find several distinctive features in Grandin’s brain that could explain her exceptional nonverbal intelligence and her way of thinking in pictures.

Here’s how smart Einstein was — he understood all too well the public’s obsession with him, our obsession with celebrity and special-ness. He knew that if given the chance, scientists would pore over his brain’s neurons and glia, sulci and gyri, and make grand pronouncements about what makes a genius. And he knew it would be bullshit.

As Einstein supposedly wrote, but probably didn’t really write, on a blackboard in his Princeton office: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”

Lucy’ Thriller Revives 10% Brain Capacity Myth….

Lucy’ Thriller Revives 10% Brain Capacity Myth

A woman's brain appears to glow from within

In the new action thriller “Lucy” from writer and director Luc Besson, Scarlett Johansson plays a drug mule whose body is implanted with a substance that begins to seep into her bloodstream and affect her body — most importantly her brain.Lucy develops the ability to use the “untapped” majority of her brain, which lies fallow in most people, the movie says. The authoritative, gravitas-laden voice of Morgan Freeman (as Professor Norman, a research psychologist) states in the film, “It is estimated most human beings use only 10 percent of their brain’s capacity. Just imagine if we could access 100 percent. Interesting things begin to happen.”As the film goes on, and Lucy accesses more and more of her cerebral capacity, she gains superhuman abilities, such as speed reading, aphotographic memory, encyclopedic knowledge, the capacity to learn a foreign language in an hour and psychic abilities such as telekinesis (moving objects with her mind). She sets out for revenge using her powers, and in the trailer when Professor Norman is asked, “What happens when she reaches 100 percent?” he replies, “I have no idea.”Actually, scientists have a pretty good idea of what happens when people use all of their brains — because most of us do: The 10 percent figure is a myth. [7 Medical Myths Even Doctors Believe]”Lucy” isn’t a documentary, of course, and it’s hardly the first sci-fi thriller to get science wrong. But it may be the most recent high-profile example of the decades-old scientific myth, or urban legend. It’s not just a throwaway scientific fact stated by a character who happens to be wrong (as in “Terminator 2,” when Sarah Connor says. “There are 215 bones in the human body,” when in fact there are 206). In Lucy, the myth is the entire premise of the film.The fact is, people use all of their brains. Brain imaging research techniques such as PET (positron emission tomography) scans and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) clearly show that the vast majority of the brain does not lie unused. Although certain activities may use only a small part of the brain at a time (for example, watching reality TV shows), any sufficiently complex set of activities will use manyparts of the brain.In the book “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology” (2010, Wiley), Dr. Scott Lilienfeld explains, “The last century has witnessed the advent of increasingly sophisticated technologies for snooping in the brain’s traffic. … Despite this detailed mapping, no quiet areas awaiting new assignments have emerged. In fact, even simple tasks generally require contributions of processing areas spread throughout virtually the whole brain.”An incredibly powerful and flexible organ, the brain can learn new languages and complex skills well into adulthood. It’s tricky to say what the brain’s capacity actually is, though, and the answer depends on what particular ability you’re talking about. Most people can memorize only a handful of random digits using their short-term memories, though practice (and techniques such as a “memory palace,” which aids recall using visualization) can significantly increase their recall.It’s not that most people have a well-defined physical or psychological limit on memory, or that people with superior memory abilities use more of their brain capacity, though. Instead, most people just don’t find memorizing long strings of random numbers that important or interesting. It’s all about where you put your time and (mental) resources.So where did this 10 percent myth come from? Psychologist Barry Beyerstein of Simon Fraser University researched the urban legend for a chapter in the book “Mind Myths: Exploring Everyday Mysteries of the Mind and Brain” (Wiley, 1999), and traced the tall tale back to at least the early part of the 20th century.In some cases people misunderstood or misinterpreted legitimate scientific findings, but the myth was really popularized by the self-help movement. Self-improvement writers such as Dale Carnegie, author of the classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (first published in 1936, by Simon & Schuster) and groups such as those promoting transcendental meditation and neurolinguistic programming referenced the myth. They promised to teach people methods of getting ahead in life by tapping latent brainpower.As cool as it would be to have superpowers like Lucy, you’re not going to get them by using more of your brain. You’re already using all you’ve got — for better or worse.

The Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster

The Palace of Westminster is perhaps better known as the Houses of Parliament and the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom.The history of the site started in Roman times when a temple dedicated to Apollo is believed to have stood on the site. Although its present development began in the 8th century when a Saxon church dedicated to St Peter was constructed and became known as the West Minster. In the 10th century it became part of a Benedictine abbey and was used as the Royal church, it was its association with the Kings that resulted in the expansion of the site, something that was started by King Cnut (1016 – 1035).The sites development over the centuries resulted in two palaces, the Old Palace, which was a medieval building constructed in the 11th century and the New Palace constructed after the Old Palace was destroyed by fire.The Old Palace became the primary residence of the Kings of England from 1049 with Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066) until 1532 when Henry VIII (1509 – 1547) acquired York Place from Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and converted it to become the Palace of Whitehall.  The Royal Council, the predecessor of Parliament, met in Westminster Hall from the 11th century. From 1295 it was the venue of the Model Parliament, the first official Parliament of England. This consisted of clergy, aristocrats and representatives of the counties and boroughs of the Kingdom. It was also the venue for the various Royal Courts of Justice. The commons were given permanent use of St Stephen’s Chapel (now St Stephen’s Hall) in 1547 having previously used various parts of the palace or Westminster Abbey for their meetings.The Palace underwent a number of alterations from the 18th century onwards, as more buildings were added including a new west façade between 1755 and 1770 in order to provide more document storage and committee rooms.

On 16 October 1834, a fire broke out in the Palace due to an overheated furnace which set fire to the House of Lords Chamber. This then spread to the Commons Chamber and most of the other parts of the complex, with the exception of Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St Stephen, the Jewel Tower and the Chapel of St Mary.  King William IV (1830 – 1837) offered Buckingham Palace as an alternative though this was deemed to be unsuitable and was therefore declined.In 1836, 97 design proposals for the new palace had been submitted for consideration and the Gothic style design by Charles Barry was accepted.  In 1840 work started and the Lords Chamber was completed in 1847, the Commons Chamber in 1852 and most of the other buildings by 1860; although it took over 30 years to finish the work completely, delays occurring due to cost increases and by the death of Barry in 1860.Built on the neo-classical principle of symmetry it contains over 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases and 3 miles (4.8 kilometres) of passageways, spread over four floors. Its façade stretches for 266 metres along the bank of the River Thames. Although mainly completed by 1870 work on the interior decoration continued intermittently well into the twentieth century.During the Second World War the Palace was hit by bombs on fourteen separate occasions. One bomb fell into Old Palace Yard and severely damaged the south wall of St Stephen’s Porch and the west front. The statue of Richard I (1189 – 1199) the Lionheart, was blown from its pedestal, another bomb destroyed much of the Cloisters. The Clock Tower was also hit blowing out all the glass on the south dial although the hands and bells were not affected and the Clock continued to keep time.  The worst incident however, was on the night of 10/11 May 1941, when the Palace took twelve hits killing three people.  An incendiary bomb hit the chamber of the House of Commons setting it on fire; while another caused the roof of Westminster Hall to catch fire causing significant damage.In 1975 the Palace space has extended to allow MPs to have their own office when it acquired the Norman Shaw Building and in 2000 the custom-built Portcullis House was completed. Portcullis House is accessed by a secure tunnel running from the Palace under Bridge Street.  The building contains a glazed covered courtyard with a cafeteria with meeting rooms on the first floor and offices above.A visit to the Palace will normally follow a prescribed route which includes the main rooms. Unfortunately photographs are not permitted other than in Westminster Hall so none of the other rooms are shown in the video below although the official site of the Palace of Westminster does include some excellent photos and virtual tours. Passing through security visitors enter Westminster Hall which was constructed in 1097 and is the oldest existing part of the Palace of Westminster, which at the time of construction was the largest hall in Europe. The roof was originally supported by pillars, but this was changed during the reign of Richard II (1377 – 1399) to the hammerbeam roof which looks like an inverted ships keel. Westminster Hall has served numerous functions including housing the main judicial courts of the land. It has also housed a number of important trials, including that of King Charles I (1625 – 1649), Sir William Wallace, Guy Fawkes and Sir Thomas More whose commemorative plaque can be found on the floor of the hall, along with some of the famous who lay in state after their death.From the Westminster Hall you will enter St. Stephen’s Hall which then leads to the Central lobby lying below the Central Tower. From this lobby lead corridors to both chambers of the house, the libraries and committee rooms. Through the House of Lords Chamber the Royal Gallery leads to the Robing Room which the Sovereign uses prior to the state opening of Parliament. Their entrance is through the Sovereign’s entrance in the Victoria Tower with its wrought iron gates. The Victoria Tower consists of twelve floors, which on its completion in 1858 was the tallest secular building in the world. It is used as an archive containing over three million Parliamentary records dating back to 1497.The Tower which most people are aware of is the Clock Tower known as “Big Ben” after the name of the largest of its five bells. It dates from 1859 and has become one of the world’s iconic buildings. Visitors are allowed, although special security clearance is required and they have to climb the 334 steps.The Palace of Westminster has been a Grade I listed building since 1970 and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987 yet it remains very much a working building with significant influence on the United Kingdom and its people.


England Lake District

England Lake District….

Lake District 400

Lake District is located in North West England and is also termed as the Lakeland or The Lakes. It is world famous due to its mountains or fells and its lakes. Other visitors simply want to have a feel of the place that is frequently included in the masterpieces of William Wordsworth and the other so-called Lake Poets.

The focal point of the district is the Lake District National Park, which is one of the 14 National Parks located in UK. It can be found in one of the hilly portions of England, Cumbria. Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England is found here. Other mountains located in the area are Helvellyn, Great End, Catstycam, Nethermost Pyke, Fairfield, Great Gable, High Street, and Crinkle Crags among others. The lakes here include: Ullswater, Windermere, Crummock water, Devoke Water, Buttermere, Elterwater, Hayeswater, Loweswater and many others. But it has only one true lake and that is Bassenthwaite Lake.

This tourist destination has a lot to offer. There are several activities that can be done here. Visitors can fish, do mountain climbing, and involve themselves in cycling, canoeing and kayaking. They can also check out museums, churches, activity centers and heritage sites. For those fond of water sports, Lake District is the ideal place to tour. Within the vicinity itself are several retail shops, restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfast, and even motor home rentals are available.

Also visited in the place is its wide array of wildlife. Some of the species in Lake District are exclusive to Britain. There’s the red squirrel, the golden eagle, and two of the few carnivorous plants in UK namely the butterwort and sundew.

Beatrix Potter, whose life was made into a biopic film, with Hollywood celebrities Renee Zellwegger and Ewan McGregor played at, once settled at Hill Top farm in Lake District. Lord Tennyson, Thomas Carlyle, Sir Walter Scott, Henry Crabb Robinson, Percy Bysshe Shelley and other notable poets or writers found some connection with nature in Lake District. This is evident with some of their major masterpieces.

Top Shopping Destinations in London

Top Shopping Destinations in London

London has several distinct retail districts and shopping streets, many of which have their own themes or specialities. From luxury goods in Mayfair to quirky finds in Covent Garden, to large shopping centres like Westfield, you can easily while away an hour, an afternoon or a whole day shopping in London. Here’s our guide to London’s top shopping areas.

Oxford Street

The heart of London shopping, bustling Oxford Street has more than 300 shops, designer outlets and landmark stores. Home to the legendary Selfridges, it also boasts a range of famous department stores such as John Lewis and Debenhams scattered among every well-known high street chain imaginable. Get off the beaten track by slipping into a side street, such as St Christopher’s Place and Berwick Street, where you’ll find some real treats.
Nearest tube: Oxford Circus, Bond Street or Tottenham Court Road

Regent Street and Jermyn Street

An impressively elegant shopping street, Regent Street offers a good range of mid-priced fashion stores alongside some of the city’s oldest and most famous shops, including Hamleys, Liberty andThe Apple Store. Nearby, historic Jermyn Street is renowned for men’s clothing shops and is so typically British it’s enough to bring out the old-fashioned gent in anyone! Jermyn Street is particularly well known for its bespoke shirt makers such as Benson & Clegg and shoe shops including John Lobb.
Nearest Tube: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus

Bond Street and Mayfair

Whether you’ve got money to burn and want to splash out on the very best in designer clothes, or just love luxury window shopping, Bond Street and Mayfair are the ideal places to go for some extravagant retail therapy. Popular with celebrities on a spree, this is probably London’s most exclusive shopping area, home to big names, including Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Tiffany & Co. Neighbouring South Molton Street boasts iconic fashion store, Browns. 
Nearest Tube: Bond Street or Piccadilly Circus


Westfield has two major shopping malls in London at White City and Stratford. Westfield London is home to high street favourites including Debenhams, Next, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser, along with luxury brands, such as Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, All Saints and Ted Baker. There’s also a cinema, gym, several bars and restaurants, all under one roof! If you’re a fan of shopping centres, don’t miss Westfield Stratford City in East London, which boasts 250 shops plus 70 places to dine, making it the largest shopping mall in Europe.
Nearest tube: White City or Shepherds Bush for Westfield London, and Stratford for Westfield Stratford City.

Carnaby Street

The birthplace of the fashion and cultural revolution during the Swinging 60s, Carnaby Street and the 13 surrounding streets are two minutes away from Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus and feature more than 150 brands and over 50 independent restaurants and bars. Step under the iconic arch and you’ll find an intriguing mix of stores as well as independent boutiques, heritage brands, and new designer names, as well as a choice of restaurants, bars, cafés and great English pubs will real ale, and real history. Refuel at restaurant hub Kingly Court, just off Carnaby Street.
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus

Covent Garden

Whether you want hip fashion, unique gifts, rare sweets or one-off handmade jewellery, Covent Garden is a great place to explore. You can stock up on the latest urban streetwear, funky cosmetics and shoes on Neal Street, check out imaginative arts and crafts at Covent Garden Market or just window shop around the stores. Don’t miss Floral Street, Monmouth Street, St Martin’s Courtyard, Shorts Gardens, Seven Dials and picture-pretty Neal’s Yard for a true taste of London’s most distinctive shopping area.
Nearest Tube: Covent Garden or Leicester Square

King’s Road

Shopping is the King’s Road’s main obsession – here you’ll find an eclectic mix of trendy boutiques, unique labels, designer shops and high-street staples, alongside a vast array of cafes and eateries. It’s also a great place for inspirational interior design, with Peter Jones, Heal’s and Cath Kidston all vying for attention. Be sure to check out the store where punk was born in the 70s, Vivienne Westwood’s shop and the treasure trove of antiques at the Chelsea Antiques Market.
Nearest Tube: Sloane Square


Visitors from around the world flock to Knightsbridge and Brompton Road to visit the illustrious shops and department stores. This is the place to go if you’re looking for prestigious brands and up-to-the-minute trends from the world’s fashion elite. Best known for Harrods and Harvey Nichols, you’ll also find a whole host of big-name fashion designers on Sloane Street. Showing Knightsbridge caters to all tastes,  there’s a branch of Topshop opposite Harrods.
Nearest Tube: Knightsbridge

Savile Row

Known worldwide as the home of bespoke British tailoring, Savile Row is the place to come if you want a handmade suit crafted the old-fashioned way (with a price tag to match). Credited with inventing the tuxedo Henry Poole & Co – also the first Savile Row tailor – is still cutting cloth at No 15. Other big names include Gieves & Hawkes, Huntsman & Sons and Ozwald Boateng. On the corner of this “golden mile” of tailoring you’ll also find the flagship Abercrombie & Fitch store.
Nearest Tube: Bond Street or Piccadilly Circus

Notting Hill

Famous worldwide thanks to the film of the same name, Notting Hill offers a vast array of small, unique shops selling unusual and vintage clothing, rare antiques, quirky gifts, books and organic food. There’s also the unmissable Portobello Road Market – a mile-long (1.6km) street with a vibrant array of different stalls set out daily. Nearby Westbourne Grove offers more high-end shopping, with stylish designer shops dotted between a mix of quirky boho boutiques, hip cafes and art galleries.
Nearest Tube: Notting Hill Gate, Ladbroke Grove or Westbourne Park

Canary Wharf

Canada Square, in London’s Docklands, is home to many of the UK’s leading businesses, but it also has a great shopping centre, open seven days a week. Sleek and modern, Canada Squareboasts more than 200 shops, with all the major high-street chains as well as a good selection of designer stores. Look out for big names like Oasis and Zara plus lingerie brand Myla and luxurious fragrance store Jo Malone. If you can avoid the weekday lunch-hour rush, it’s one of London’s most chilled-out shopping experiences.
Nearest Tube: Canary Wharf


Based in the heart of East London, Boxpark Shoreditch is the world’s first pop-up mall and the home of the pop-up store. Opened in 2011 by founder and CEO Roger Wade, the mall will be open for the next four years. Constructed of stripped and refitted shipping containers, Boxpark is filled with a mix of fashion and lifestyle brands, galleries, cafés and restaurants.
Nearest Tube: Old Street and Liverpool Street