You may or may not be aware of this fact, but when Albert Einstein died in 1955 an autopsy was performed on his body and – because of his reputation as a genius – his brain was removed to be studied. Approximately 20 years later it would be “rediscovered,” studied some more and then 20 more years later would be returned to Einstein’s granddaughter Evelyn, the “road trip” of which would be recorded in Michael Paterniti’s Driving Mr. Albert: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s Brain (2001). All in all one could say it makes a fun story and a semi-accomplishment for science (we’re learning about certain regions being larger and Glial cells)!
But then there’s this weird little historical footnote: they also took his eyes. And not in a “Maybe they were genius eyes???” kind of way either. It was done because they were Einstein’s fucking eyeballs.
As reporters soon discovered, Harvey did not have permission. Nor did he have a legal right to remove and keep the brain for himself. 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, and that any results would be published in reputable scientific journals. But Einstein’s dignity had already been compromised. He had left behind specific instructions regarding his remains: cremate them, and scatter the ashes secretly in order to discourage idolaters. Yet not only did Harvey take the brain, he also removed the physicist’s eyeballs and gave them to Henry Abrams, Einstein’s eye doctor. They remain to this day in a safe deposit box in New York City, and are frequently rumored to be poised for the auction block. [from NPR]
Every time the eyeballs are rumored to be on auction Abrams has to make it clear that they’re all rumors and that he has no intention to sell. Why? Because
“Albert Einstein was a very important part of my life – a lasting influence,” Abrams, 82, said during an interview on Thursday at his winter home west of Boynton Beach. “Having his eyes means the professor’s life has not ended. A part of him is still with me.“
How are you supposed to interpret that? “He’s not dead … because I have his eyes.” And if it isn’t already creepy imagining the two as besties, it becomes downright insane when you read the last article and Abrams makes it clear that, if anything, they were acquaintances at best.