Einstein admirer given a piece of the thinker's mind

May 30, 1994|By Chicago Tribune

OSAKA, Japan -- There are at least two reasons why the man who unlocked the secrets of the atom might not be an honored hero in Japan: Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

But don't tell that to a mathematics professor at Kinki University, who has spent most of his adult life chasing down the hidden mystery of Albert Einstein. Not his theories, mind you, but his brain.

Late last year, he finally found it. The brain, or at least what was left of it, was in Lawrence, Kan., floating in a formaldehyde-filled jar owned by the pathologist who performed Einstein's autopsy.

After a 12-year search whose final moments were recorded in the BBC documentary, "Looking for Einstein's Brain," which was shown in Britain last month, Professor Kenji Sugimoto convinced Dr. Thomas Harvey, now 81 and retired, to slice him off a piece.

Today that precious relic sits on Mr. Sugimoto's desk in a Twinings Tea canister. It is the centerpiece of an Einstein memorabilia collection that he hopes to turn into an Einstein museum, either at Kinki or at his home in Fukuoka, a few miles

from his birthplace in Nagasaki.

Mr. Sugimoto owns 20 documentaries about Einstein in English, German and Japanese. He has coins, posters and more than 1,000 photographs, many of which went into his first book, "Albert Einstein, a Photographic Biography," which was published in English and Japanese in 1989.

Photographs of his collection make up his second book, "The Einstein Museum." Mr. Sugimoto is currently working on a third volume, "Relics, Looking for Einstein's Brain," a compilation of newspaper clippings about his search, scenes from the BBC documentary and various articles.

Mr. Sugimoto's heady fixation began when he was 19 and studying at Tokyo Institute of Technology. His teacher was Kentaro Yano, who studied for two years under Einstein at Princeton University and wrote the only original biography that has appeared in Japanese.

Reading that book began Mr. Sugimoto's lifelong infatuation with the man.

"Einstein teaches me about love as well as science," he said. "Einstein's work encouraged my studies. It encouraged me to step up my work. . . . I love Albert Einstein."

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