Dear Mr. Alice: Does Michael Jackson own Albert Einstein’s eyes? — A.A., San Diego
C’mon into the Wild Rumors Wing of the Matthew Alice Museum of Famous Body Parts. Just take a seat on one of those stacks of tabloids while we clear this thing up. According to several interviews with their owner, Einstein’s eyes are absolutely not for sale, and that’s final. And Michael Jackson never offered $5 million for them, no matter what crazy story we may have read. Einstein’s eyes remain where they have been for the last 40 years — in a small glass vial in a New Jersey bank vault. Their owner is Einstein’s friend and former ophthalmologist, Dr. Henry Abrams. The good doctor admits to visiting with the orbs occasionally to reminisce about the old days back at Princeton.
It was Einstein’s wish that his body be cremated so nothing would be left to memorialize or turn into a cultish relic. But at the postmortem, Dr. Thomas Harvey filched Einstein’s brain. Dr. Abrams, rationalizing that eyes are simply an extension of brain tissue, clipped Albert’s peepers. Harvey has the gray matter in three jars of formaldehyde in his apartment in Lawrence, Kansas, though he’s given away bits to some scientists. He hopes they’ll study Einstein’s brain tissue to find the source of his genius. The keeper of Einstein’s papers at Princeton has been quoted as saying Al would consider that idea “horseshit.”
You might keep your eyes open for a 1994 BBC documentary, Einstein’s Brain, in which a film crew tracks down years’ worth of rumors of the organ’s whereabouts. When they finally locate Dr. Harvey, he reportedly pops a piece of brain out of one of his jars, cuts a slice with a kitchen knife, and gives it to his visitors as a souvenir. Director Kevin Hull swears it’s all true.