Tilly Edinger

The daughter of a respected neurologist, Tilly Edinger pioneered the study of paleoneurology through her discovery that brains left detectable imprints on the insides of skulls. Edinger studied at the Universities of Heidelberg and Munich before earning a PhD from the University of Frankfurt in 1921 for her dissertation on the skull of a nothosaurus, a prehistoric marine reptile. She worked as an unpaid research assistant at the university’s institute for paleontology before becoming the curator of fossil vertebrates at the Senckenberg Musuem in 1927. Her father had disapproved of her work, but after his death, she served as a part-time assistant to the Frankfurt Neurological Institute (which he had established) until 1933, resigning when the Nazis came to power. She continued to work at the Senckenberg Museum until 1938, when she finally fled Germany. In 1940 she took a research position at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, continuing her groundbreaking research and proving the importance of studying the brain’s evolution by examining fossil evidence, not just comparing modern species to each other. She served as president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology from 1963–1964 and taught zoology for a year at Wellesley before retiring in 1964.


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Jewish Women's Archive. "Tilly Edinger." (Viewed on June 19, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/edinger-tilly>.


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