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Einstein's Brain is Missing, but Make No Assumptions

Contributed by Alex Shrugged

"I have finished my task here."
-- Albert Einstein, on his deathbed as he reviews his final calculations. [1]

The great physicist, Albert Einstein, is dead. His friend, Dr. Zimmerman, can't get away, so he calls on his colleague to perform the autopsy. Dr. Harvey walks into the morgue. It looks like a broom closet. In the refrigerator is the body of Albert Einstein. He is a famous man so the autopsy must be done with care. There are flies buzzing around the room as Dr. Harvey begins his incision. The cause of death is a burst blood vessel. At this point the autopsy should be over, but Dr. Harvey continues. It is difficult to know what inspires him to remove Einstein's brain. Perhaps it is professional curiosity or some lesser motivation, but when he leaves the morgue, Einstein's brain is missing. Then in a press conference, Dr. Harvey declares that he is keeping the brain for scientific study. Einstein's son is shocked, so Dr. Harvey calls him to apologize, and ask permission to study his father's brain. It's all for science, you see, and a scientific paper will be written. The son grants permission, but as the years pass, no paper is forthcoming, and there are no legal precedents for recovering a missing brain. [2] [3] [4] [5]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
It is now 1997. A young woman is writing a book, leaving her husband, Michael, at loose ends. He writes magazine articles, and when he meets Dr. Harvey, now 84 years old, he asks about the brain. Dr. Harvey says that he would like to return it to Einstein's granddaughter, Evelyn, before he is too old. In an inspired moment, Michael says, "I could drive you." And thus begins one of the strangest road trips of all time with Einstein's brain bobbing along in a Tupperware® container. The book is called "Driving Mr. Albert" and it is a hoot. I often use the book as an example of how an author will make assumptions about what a reader already knows. On a road trip, the author might mention a stop at a gas station or maybe not. He assumes that everyone knows that cars need gas, but how long will that assumption hold as electric, self-driving cars come online? Writing is permanent, but the meaning of words change. As we modernize, something is always lost in translation.... not just words and context, but skills... like driving. A few of us choose to remember and pass it on, so that when that knowledge is needed, it will still exist. [6] [7]

Refusing to Move to the Back of the Bus

Contributed by Alex Shrugged

It is March 2nd. As the bus driver approaches the next stop he sees several white people waiting. The white and Negro sections of his bus are full. The center section is a spillover area where several black women are seated. He tells them to move, but two of them stare off into the distance, unhearing. The bus driver hails a policeman. A black man gives up his seat to one of the girls, but everyone else remains seated. High school student Claudette Colvin is madder than a wet hen as the police drag her off to jail. This could be a test case... a way to take segregation back to the Supreme Court. Clifford Durr is good-old-boy insider and a lawyer. He quit his position as FCC Commissioner to fight Truman's loyalty oath hearings. (By Executive Order, federal employees were required to take a loyalty oath.) He talks Fred Gray, a negro lawyer, into taking Colvin's case. He loses and Colvin is convicted. Perfect. But in appeals the judge dismisses the charge of violation of the segregation laws, and gives Colvin a small fine. Momentum is lost. They will have to try again, and they won't have long to wait. Mary Louise Smith is next. [8] [9] [10] [11]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Wait a second! What happened to Rosa Parks? That was in December. Rosa Parks' defiance of the segregation orders sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She deserves that credit, but she was not the first. She wasn't even the third, but she was the secretary of the local chapter of the NAACP... the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was also the one who typed out the acceptance letter when Dr. Martin Luther King applied for membership, and she was the seamstress for the Durr family, the lawyer looking for a test case to take to the Supreme Court. She knew everyone. She was good-looking, mild in manner and they charged her with violating the segregation laws and nothing else. Although her case eventually got bogged down in court, she became the rallying point for the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The question is... was it all MADE to happen? Maybe. She got on the bus driven by a man that she said she would never ride with again, but thereafter, it was all real. [12] [13] [14] [15]

Blowing Up Commercial Airlines: Now Illegal!

Contributed by Southpaw Ben

On November 1st 1955, a flight was going from Denver Colorado to Portland Oregon. Around 7:03 pm United Airlines Flight 629 exploded over Longmont, Colorado,[16]killing the 39 passengers and 5 crew members on board. Later investigation revealed that Jack Gilbert Grahamwas responsible for the bombing. His motive was to kill his mother to get revenge for his childhood, and to get a large payout from her life insurance policy. He had also blown up one of his mother's restaurants and collected on the property insurance from it. Bomb making materials identical to those found in the wreckage were found in Graham's possession. As the title suggests, at this time there were no laws on the book making the bombing of a commercial airline illegal. As a result, Graham was only charged with the premeditated murder of his mother, despite the 43 other deaths. He was found guilty and was executed on January 11, 1957.

My Take by Southpaw Ben
In response to this bombing, on July 14th, 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill that made the intentional bombing of a commercial airline illegal. [17]As much as this law makes sense at first glance, I would argue it's not, and is part of the reason why we have so many laws on the books. If we only had a few broad laws, they would be much easier to enforce and harder for one to get away on a technicality. Instead of saying it's illegal to blow up an airline, simply having it be illegal to kill someone and it's illegal to destroy property that you lack permission to destroy would be enough. And it was in this case, as justice was served with simply having it be illegal to murder someone.

Notable Births

  • John Roberts: 17th Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. [18]
  • Mike Huckabee: Gov. of Arkansas, Fox News talk show host and presidential candidate. [18]
  • Bill Gates: Co-founder of Microsoft and one of the wealthiest people in the world. [18]
  • Eric Schmidt: CEO of Novell, CEO of Google and Exec. Chairman of Alphabet Inc, a conglomerate that holds various Google companies. [18]
  • Steve Jobs (died 2011 , age 56): Co-founder and CEO of Apple, and CEO of Pixar. [18]
  • And in Entertainment...
  • -- In Music: Eddie Val Halen, Billy Idol, and Reba McEntire. [18]
  • -- Kate Mulgrew: Captain Janeway of the Star Trek: Voyager series. [18]
  • -- Penn Jillette: From the magical team of Penn & Teller. (If you must have a favorite atheist, he is your man.--alexshrugged) [18]
  • -- Bruce Willis: TV's Moonlighting, Die Hard, The Fifth Element, Armageddon, The Sixth Sense and more. [18]
  • -- Whoopi Goldberg: Actress in The Color Purple, Ghost, Sister Act, comedian and co-host of The View. [18]

This Year in Film

  • Mister Roberts: Starring Henry Fonda as an XO who protects his crew from a vain and petty captain. (Still worth watching--alexshrugged). [19]
  • Guys and Dolls: A musical starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. (Still worth watching--alexshrugged) [19]
  • The Seven Year Itch: Marilyn Monroe stands on a subway grate as her dress lifts up. (No drooling, gentlemen.--alexshrugged) [19]

This Year in Music

  • Sixteen Tons: Tennessee Ernie Ford. "You load 16 tons, whadda ya get? Another day older and deeper in debt." [20] [21]
  • Cry Me a River: Julie London. "I cried a river over you" [20] [22]
  • Maybellene (Why Can't You Be True?): Chuck Barry. [20] [23]

In Other News

  • Electric power is produced from atomic energy: Arco, Idaho is where it starts. It is also the site of the first fatal reactor accident. (and the only one for the USA) [24] [25]
  • The Hovercraft is invented using a vacuum cleaner and two tin cans. It is then classified as a government secret, killing further development. [26]
  • The Disneyland theme park and Disneyland Hotel open for business: Also the Mickey Mouse Club makes its debut. [27]
  • And events even more important than the above: (They cannot all get a mention, so something has to give.--alexshrugged)

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1955, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Paterniti, Michael. Driving Mr. Albert. Dial Press. ISBN 0385333005. “If most of his instructors underestimated him--a Greek teacher once told him he wouldn’t amount to anything in life--Albert Einstein had a certain confidence, what his elders came to see as supercilious arrogance. [...] "You are a smart boy, Einstein, a very smart boy," his university physics professor told him. "But you have one great fault: You’ll never let yourself be told anything." Einstein’s general response, written to a friend sometime later, was curt and impassioned: "Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth."” 
  2. Albert Einstein - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “Einstein refused surgery, saying: 'I want to go when I want. It is tasteless to prolong life artificially. I have done my share, it is time to go. I will do it elegantly.'[129] He died in Princeton Hospital early the next morning at the age of 76, having continued to work until near the end. During the autopsy, the pathologist of Princeton Hospital, Thomas Stoltz Harvey, removed Einstein's brain for preservation without the permission of his family, in the hope that the neuroscience of the future would be able to discover what made Einstein so intelligent. Einstein's remains were cremated and his ashes were scattered at an undisclosed location.”
  3. "Driving Mr. Albert (Excerpt)", The New York Times, 2000. Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “Word was leaked by Harvey's former teacher Dr. Zimmerman that Harvey had Einstein's brain, and that he, Zimmerman, was expecting to receive it from his student. When this was reported in The New York Times a day after Einstein's death, Hans Albert, who knew nothing of his father's brain having been removed, was flabbergasted.” 
  4. The Theft and Half-Century Journey of Einstein’s Brain. gizmodo.com (January 30, 2015). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “Hans Albert granted the permission, making Harvey promise that his father's mind would be used for careful scientific study and the findings published in legitimate medical journals. When the New York Times printed Einstein's obituary on April 20th, it said that Dr. Harvey performed the autopsy 'with the permission of the scientist's son,' with another headline that same day proclaiming 'Son Asked Study of Einstein Brain.' It makes no mention that this permission came after the fact.”
  5. The Theft and Half Century Journey of Einstein's Brain. todayifoundout.com (January 30, 2015). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “Hans Albert granted the permission, making Harvey promise that his father's mind would be used for careful scientific study and the findings published in legitimate medical journals. When the New York Times printed Einstein's obituary on April 20th, it said that Dr. Harvey performed the autopsy 'with the permission of the scientist's son,' with another headline that same day proclaiming 'Son Asked Study of Einstein Brain.' It makes no mention that this permission came after the fact. [...] For the next thirty years, Harvey moved around the Midwest, towing the brain along, never publishing any studies. Every once in awhile, a researcher would contact him and he would send them a slide or two, hoping they could do the research he never did.”
  6. Thomas Stoltz Harvey - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “In 1998, Harvey delivered the remaining uncut portion of Einstein's brain to Dr. Elliot Krauss, a pathologist at University Medical Center at Princeton. Certain parts of Einstein's brain were found to have a higher proportion of glial cells than the average male brain.”
  7. Michael Paterniti - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “After his graduation from the University of Michigan, My Paterniti pursued a successful career for as an editor, magazine writer and the author of 'Driving Mr. Albert,' his account of a cross-country car trip with both the pathologist who performed Albert Einstein’s autopsy and Einstein’s actual brain, which floated about in a formaldehyde-filled Tupperware vessel.”
  8. Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781416558682. “Clifford Durr, for his part, was a grim harbinger to white Southern liberals on the race issue. He retained many influential contacts from his glowing past as a second-echelon braintruster of the New Deal. The Johnsons, Lyndon and Lady Bird, were old friends, for example, and Durr was related by marriage to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black. But these surviving ties counted for very little when Durr rebelled against the most sensitive taboos of the Cold War era. First he had resigned his post as FCC Commissioner to represent some of the early victims of the Truman loyalty program. To Durr, the loyalty hearings were un-American inquisitions in which innocent people were branded as perverts or subversives on the word of anonymous FBI informants. His cases isolated him from mainstream politics, and things grew worse when he returned home to practice law.” 
  9. Executive Order 9835 - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “President Harry S. Truman signed United States Executive Order 9835, sometimes known as the 'Loyalty Order', on March 21, 1947. The order established the first general loyalty program in the United States, designed to root out communist influence in the U.S. federal government. Truman aimed to rally public opinion behind his Cold War policies with investigations conducted under its authority.”
  10. Executive Order 10450 - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450 on April 27, 1953. Effective May 27, 1953, it revoked President Truman's Executive Order 9835 of 1947, and dismantled its Loyalty Review Board program. Instead it charged the heads of federal agencies and the Office of Personnel Management, supported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with investigating federal employees to determine whether they posed security risks. It expanded the definitions and conditions used to make such determinations.”
  11. Executive Order 12968 - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “Executive Order 12968 was signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton on August 2, 1995. It established uniform policies for allowing employees of the federal government access to classified information. It detailed standards for disclosure, eligibility requirements and levels of access, and administrative procedures for granting or denying access and for appealing such determinations. It expanded on the President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Executive Order 10450 of 1953.”
  12. Montgomery bus boycott - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “The Montgomery bus boycott, a seminal event in the Civil Rights Movement, was a political and social protest campaign against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system of Montgomery, Alabama. The campaign lasted from December 5, 1955—when Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person—to December 20, 1956, when a federal ruling, Browder v. Gayle, took effect, and led to a United States Supreme Court decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses to be unconstitutional. Many important figures in the Civil Rights Movement took part in the boycott, including Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.”
  13. The Other Rosa Parks: Now 73, Claudette Colvin Was First to Refuse Giving Up Seat on Montgomery Bus - Democracy Now! (March 29, 2013). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “At a ceremony unveiling a statue in her honor last month, President Obama called Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus a 'singular act of disobedience.' But nine months before Parks’ historic action, a 15-year-old teenager named Claudette Colvin did the very same thing. She was arrested, and her case led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s order for the desegregation of Alabama’s bus system.”
  14. Rosa Parks - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “One day in 1943, Parks boarded a bus and paid the fare. She then moved to her seat but driver James F. Blake told her to follow city rules and enter the bus again from the back door. When Parks exited the vehicle, Blake drove off without her.[21] Parks waited for the next bus, determined never to ride with Blake again.”
  15. Elaine Woo (October 25, 2005). She Set Wheels of Justice in Motion - Page 2 - latimes. Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “The driver, James Blake, demanded that she disembark and re-board at the rear of the bus. Parks got off and waited for the next bus. She swore to herself never to ride with that driver again.”
  16. United Airlines Flight 629 - Wikipedia (2017).
  17. United Airlines Flight 629 - Wikipedia (2017).
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 18.8 18.9 1955 Births - Wikipedia (2017).
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 1955 in film - Wikipedia (2017).
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 1955 in music - Wikipedia (2017).
  21. Sixteen Tons - Tennessee Ernie Ford - YouTube (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017.
  22. Cry me a river - Julie London - YouTube (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “'Cry me a river ' as it's featured in 'V for Vendetta'”
  23. Chuck Berry - Maybellene - YouTube (2017). Retrieved on 17 February 2017. “Chuck Berry (Charles Edward Anderson Berry - born Oct. 18, 1926, St. Louis, Mo., U.S.) singer, songwriter, and guitarist who was one of the most popular and influential performers in rhythm-and-blues and rock-and-roll music in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.”
  24. AEC Press release for BORAX-III lighting Arco, Idaho - Reactors designed/built by Argonne National Laboratory (1955). Retrieved on 13 February 2017. “Arco, Idaho, became the first community in the Nation to receive its entire supply of power from a nuclear source when, on July 17,1955, electricity produced in an experimental nuclear power plant operated by Argonne National Laboratory at the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission's National Reator Testing Station, twenty miles from Arco, was fed into transmission lines supplying the small town.”
  25. Arco, Idaho - Wikipedia (2017). Retrieved on 13 February 2017. “NRTS made further history on January 3, 1961, when the SL-1 reactor was destroyed through an operator maintenance error, causing the deaths of all 3 personnel present. It was the world's first (and the U.S.' only) fatal reactor accident.”
  26. Christopher Cockerell - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 5 December 2016. “He tested his theories using a vacuum cleaner and two tin cans. His hypothesis was found to have potential, but the idea took some years to develop, and he was forced to sell personal possessions to finance his research. By 1955, he had built a working model from balsa wood and had filed his first patent for the hovercraft, No GB 854211. Cockerell had found it impossible to interest the private sector in developing his idea, as both the aircraft and the shipbuilding industries saw it as lying outside their core business. He therefore approached the British Government with a view to interesting them in possible defence applications and put the idea of the hovercraft on the governments secret list.”
  27. 1955 - Wikipedia (2017).

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