University of Texas officials are trying to find about 100 brains preserved in formaldehyde that may include the gray matter of Charles Whitman, who went on a shooting spree from a tower at the school and killed 16 people.
The brains, mostly those of patients of a state mental hospital, were stored at the school’s Animal Resources Center in Austin, said Timothy Schallert, a professor of neuroscience and psychology. Officials have recently discovered that about half the collection of 200 brains can’t be located, said Schallert.
“That’s a lot of brains to store,” said Schallert, 65, who has taught at the university since 1979. “Nobody seems to know where the brains are.”
The disappearance was first reported in a book yesterday titled “Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital” by Adam Voorhes and Alex Hannaford. Most were acquired for use for teaching and research, said Schallert. The patients had a variety of disorders including Alzheimer’s disease.
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Schallert confirmed that Whitman’s may be among the missing organs. The former Marine was killed by police after his 1966 massacre.
The university said in a statement today that it’s investigating the missing brains, which came into its collection about 30 years ago.
“We understand the potential scientific value of all our holdings and take our roles as stewards of them very seriously,” the university said in the statement from spokesman Gary Susswein. “We are committed to treating the brain specimens with respect and are disheartened to learn that some may be unaccounted for.”