And one final thought that struck me from Dr. Michio Kaku’s speech.  As with my other two blog entries about him, again, it wasn’t about some of the cutting-edge science he described, but rather an anecdote that piqued my interest.

Kaku described (and a story by National Geographic confirmed) that when Albert Einstein died in 1955, he left instructions to be cremated.  As part of the autopsy, pathologist who worked on Einstein’s body extracted the brain.  When he held it in his hand, he realized that he had something special — in his opinion, too special to be destroyed — so he took Einstein’s brain home in a jar!

The brain traveled in the back seat of his car, was stored in a cider box for years, moved states again — before he eventually donated it back to Princeton 40 years later.

The pathologist, Thomas Harvey, did receive from Einstein’s son retroactive permission to study the brain, but he did not have authority to preserve it when he did.

Have you ever found yourself in a similar moral conundrum, where you truly believed something was the right thing to do, even though you did not have the right to do it?  As in this case, things are often complicated by the fact it is a “now or never” irrevocable decision — if you cremate the brain, there is no deciding later that it was the wrong choice.  

Is it better to ask permission or forgiveness?  I recommend that you reflect on your values and become clear about your inner compass before you are holding the brain in your hand.

— beth triplett

The tragic story of how Einstein’s brain was stolen and wasn’t even special by Virginia Hughes, Only Human,, April 21, 2014.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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