Up close and personal with Albert Einstein's brain

September 25, 2012

Caroline O'Donovan

(Flickr/Jeff Kubina)

Slide images of Albert Einstein's brain are available now through an iPad app.

Steve Landers designed the app for the National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago. He said the program uses a technology called Image Tiles. This new virtual microscope technology showcases the images taken by pathologist Thomas Harvey after Einstein died in 1955. Harvey removed the great physicist’s brain without permission, sliced it up and kept it in formaldehyde in his home for a number of years.

The app is an opportunity for students and researchers who have previously only been able to study Einstein’s brain on a macroscopic level. The new level of detail could lead to many new discoveries in neuroanatomy, specifically in the study of cells and connections within the brain. “The more eyeballs that see this the more surprised we will be,” Landers said.

He was confident that regular consumers would buy the app, which costs $9.99 in the iTunes store. “Einstein described himself as passionately curious,” Landers said, “Just a curiosity to see the way the human body works... there will be a number of people interested in exploring that.”

 “Just a curiosity to see the way the human body works... there will be a number of people interested in exploring that.”

The museum plans to release similar mapping apps in the coming months. Landers said the technology could have uses for the study of cells and tissues and the study of disease, as well as other, non biological sciences.

The National Museum of Health and Medicine Chicago will open to the public in 2015. It is a satellite museum of the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. The Chicago location will focus on other imaging projects. A spokesperson for the museum called it “the first digital museum of its kind.”