Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Brains in Jars
I first came across brains in jars a few months ago at the forlorn, barbed-wire-enclosed Indiana Medical History Museum, located in the state's old insane asylum. Tours roam the former pathology lab and show how early medicine was practiced, from the cold-slabbed autopsy room to the eerie specimen room. Pickled brains fill the shelves of the latter. Each is tagged with its defect: hydrocephalus, kicked by a horse, syphilis...
Unique? Not really. Lima, Peru, has a Brain Museum with over 3000 brains in jars. Philadelphia's Mutter Museum boasts Einstein's brain (in slices). Yale has 650 brains on display. Cornell has lots of lobes, too - though it says "brain collecting has dimmed" since the 1970s.
Tell that to Washington DC's National Zoo. It has whole cabinets of brains in jars, from pygmy hippos to blue whales, white-tailed deer to red foxes. Because nothing says "fun!" to kids like a roomful of dead animal organs.