The UC Berkeley professor famous for examining Albert Einstein’s brain has passed away.
Marian Cleeves Diamond, considered one of the founders of modern neuroscience, died July 25 at age 90 at home in Oakland, the school announced.
In 1984, Diamond, a professor emerita of integrative biology at Cal, studied segments of Einstein’s brain and found that the renowned physicist had more of what are known as “support cells” than average.
She was the first to demonstrate that the brain can improve with enrichment and that animals, including children, growing up in impoverished environments can have a diminished capacity to learn.
The discovery was groundbreaking. “Her research demonstrated the impact of enrichment on brain development — a simple but powerful new understanding that has literally changed the world, from how we think about ourselves to how we raise our children,” George Brooks, a UC Berkeley professor of integrative biology, said in a statement. “Dr. Diamond showed anatomically, for the first time, what we now call plasticity of the brain. In doing so she shattered the old paradigm of understanding the brain as a static and unchangeable entity that simply degenerated as we age.”
But, as is still the case, there were disproportionately few female neuroscientists at the time and Diamond faced sexist backlash for her work. “Young lady, that brain cannot change,” one man reportedly told her after she delivered a talk.
Diamond persisted, later showing not only that enrichment can develop the brain, but that the finding is true for people of all ages.
The professor was also known for carrying a preserved human brain in a flowered hat box across…
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