Marian Diamond ’48, M.A. ’49, Ph.D. ’53
As a world-renowned authority on the human brain, it’s no surprise that Diamond carries one around in a hatbox. Possibly Berkeley’s oldest active professor, she has been filling her anatomy classes for more than 50 years, and her Integrative Biology 131 series has become a YouTube sensation. Reflecting on becoming a teacher, she wrote, “The first time a medical student asked me a question … I felt a deep, warm glow of satisfaction radiate through my body. This is where I belong.” One of Diamond’s major discoveries — that the brain can continue to develop at any age with proper stimulation — revolutionized thinking about the potential of the aging brain. She also spent decades researching how environmental factors can alter the brain’s anatomy — an idea that took her to Cambodia to improve the nutrition and learning of orphans in a remote Buddhist community. But her journey to academic stardom was not easy. A pathologist strung her along for years when she requested samples of Albert Einstein’s brain. “He wasn’t sure that I was a scientist. This is one thing that you have to face being a woman,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2010. But she succeeded, and has not stopped spreading her knowledge with creativity and passion.