In the 1920s Oskar Vogt became interested in the potential morphological correlates of mental abilities, and hence in the neuroanatomical study of 'elite brains'. When Lenin died of a brain hemorrhage in 1924, his brain was preserved in formaldehyde, where it remained for two years. In 1926, Vogt was recruited by the Soviet government to help establish Lenin's genius via histological investigation of his brain. He was given some space in Moscow to carry out this work and two years later, a spacious and representative brick building that had been confiscated from an American business (Fig. 4). In it, he helped establish and then headed the Moscow Brain Institute (Fig. 5). Between 1926 and 1930, Vogt travelled to Moscow several times to supervise the work on Lenin's brain (Fig. 6) by the Russian collaborators who had been trained at Vogt's KWI for Brain Research in Berlin.
In 1927, Vogt gave a preliminary report on his findings in Moscow, concluding from his histological observations that Lenin must have been an athlete in associative thinking ("Assoziationsathlet") - a conclusion deemed farfetched by some of his neurologist colleagues and adversaries. Lenin's brain was, for a time, on display in the Lenin Mausoleum and now rests at Moscow's Brain Institute.
Fig. 4: The first building of the Moscow Brain Institute "Mozga"
Fig. 5: Oskar Vogt studying sections of Lenin's brain. Cover of the Journal Meditsinskii Rabotnik (Medical Worker), 1927
Fig. 6: Micrographs of sections of Lenin's brain (right) in comparison to an average brain (left), produced by Oskar Vogt [from: Kahn (1929) Das Leben des Menschen]