100 brains disappear from Texas university collection

December 4, 2014

The University of Texas at Austin found themselves investigating a strange case of brain drain after approximately 100 brains preserved in jars of formaldehyde went missing. Timothly Schallert and Lawrence Cormack, the co-curators of the collection, were initially at a loss to explain their whereabouts. Cormack said, “it’s entirely possible word got around among undergraduate students and people started swiping them for living rooms or Halloween pranks.” However, the brains later turned up at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “I know the brains will be treated very well there,” said Schallert. uTexas-Austin had received the brains from the Austin State Hospital about 28 years ago; due to capacity issues in the university’s psychology lab, the missing brains had been stored in the basement of the Animal Resources Centre. Among the collection of brains is one that belonged to Charles Whitman, the so-called “clock tower sniper” who in 1966 killed 16 people at the uTexas-Austin. Globe and Mail | Toronto Star

Postscript: December 4, 2014

The 100 brains that went missing from the University of Texas at Austin were not transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio, as previously reported. Rather, they were destroyed in 2002. In a statement, uTexas-Austin said that the brains were destroyed after faculty members determined that they had been in poor condition upon their receipt from the Austin State Hospital; they were then disposed of in accordance with protocols concerning biological waste. The university added that it intends to investigate the handling of the brain specimens as well as how the decision to dispose of the brains was made. uTexas-Austin also said that there is no evidence that one of the specimens belonged to Charles Whitman, the clock tower sniper. UTexas-Austin News Release | The Chronicle of Higher Education