Why was Einstein so smart?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Einstein's brain
Here’s a picture of Einstein’s brain, in case you were curious. If it was still inside his body, you’d be looking at his forehead right now.

What’s more legendary than the E=MC² equation? Its creator, Albert Einstein! However, there’s a hidden formula that even he would’ve never been able to figure out… because the truth was locked away inside his skull… literally.

Yep, we’re talking about his brain and the answer to “Why was Einstein so smart?” It’s a decades-old question that has fascinated researchers so much, they actually took a peek inside his brain! It turns out his squishy pink intellect was indeed slightly different than the average man.

Even without poking and prodding the jellied brilliance of dear Mr. Einstein, he was clearly on another level compared to the other scientific minds of his time. When he was just 26 years old, Einstein proposed the Special Theory of Relativity, which described light and its relation to time, space, mass, gravity, and motion in a never-before-seen way. He also made breakthroughs in the field of regular physics, quantum physics (how tiny particles move), and weapons for World War II.

It’s no surprise, then, that after Einstein died on April 18, 1955, people just couldn’t resist cracking his skull open for a look inside. In fact, a certain Dr. Thomas Harvey gave Einstein’s corpse an autopsy (opening up a body after its dead), and stole the brain! This mad scientist apparently kept the brain inside of a jar in his basement to study it, taking tons of pictures and cutting it into pieces.

While dozens of less theft-happy scientists have examined the photos over the years, only recently did researchers get their hands on 14 never-before-seen images that might finally explain why Einstein was a genius!

See, because some of his best work took place when he was in his 20s, this new study decided to compare his brain to men between the ages of 24 and 30. And, because he died when he was barely 76 years old, the scientists also compared his noggin to men 70 to 80 years old.

So, how big were the differences?

Apparently, the brainiac had a huge prefrontal cortex, which is a region in the brain related to complex planning and decision-making. Additionally, Einstein had a thicker corpus callosum, a structure that connects the left half of the brain to the right side and allows them to communicate!

As the researchers state in their study, “Although the intelligence of human beings cannot be fully explained by… [brain] volumes, our findings suggest that Einstein’s extraordinary [brainpower] was related not only to his unique… structure… but also… enhanced communication routes between at least some parts of his two cerebral hemispheres.”

What’s really amazing is that the researchers believe Einstein’s brain may have shrunk over time, so there’s a chance it was even more super than we already know!

Image of brain courtesy of Oxford Journal