Walt Whitman’s Brain
The American Anthropometric Society was established in 1889 at a meeting which
took place of the residence of —. The founders were : Harrison Allen, Francis
Xavier Dercum, Joseph Leidy, William Pepper, and Edward Charles Spitzka. The
chief object of the society was the preservation of the brains of its members. Three
of the founders of the society have since died and their brains were duly removed and
preserved as were those of members who subsequently joined the society and are now
deceased. In the order of acquisition, the list of brains in the collection included the
- Joseph Leidy.
- Philip Leidy.
- J. W. White, Sr.
- Andrew J. Yarker.
- Walt Whitman.
- Harrison Allen.
- Edward D. Cope.
- William Pepper.
The brain of Walt Whitman, together with the jar in which it had been placed,
was said to have been dropped on the floor by a careless assistant. Unfortunately, not
even the pieces were saved. The brain of Dr. White is not in good condition. The
brain of Dr. Yarker had been allowed to remain in Muller’s fluid ever since 1892 and when found was badly broken. Fortunately, there exists an excellent cast of the undissected brain which had been made soon after hardening under the supervision of
Dr. Dercum. With the utmost care I was able to restore some of the parts so as to
delineate considerable portions of the mesal surfaces as well as to expose and make
casts of the insulae. It is to be regretted that like opportunities were not afforded in
the case of Walt Whitman’s brain.
From “A Study of the Brains of Six Eminent Scientists and Scholars Belonging to
the American Anthropometric Society, together with a Description of the
Skull of Professor E. D. Cope,” by Edw. Anthony Spitzka, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Ser., Vol. 21, No. 4 (1907),
I run into the strangest things while doing research . . .