Tilly Edinger

          Tilly Edinger was born in Frankfurt, Germany on November 13, 1897.  Her father helped start the study of neurology.  Her family was well known in the community.  Her father even had a street named after him.  Her mother had a statue of her in the town square because she helped poor people.  However, her father did not support her being a scientist.  He did not think science was a job for women. 

Picture Courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History

University of Frankfurt

Photo Courtesy of the University of Frankfurt

          She went to college at the University of Heidelberg and the University of Munich.  She received her doctorate degree from the University of Frankfurt. 

     While she was in college she studied the skull of a Nothosaurus.  She studied the difference in the brains of the two million year old dead reptiles with living reptiles.    

A Nothosaurus

Photo Courtesy of the Plesiosauria Directory

Natur-Museum Senckenberg

Picture Courtesy of the Natur-Museum Senckenberg


     She worked at the university for a while.  Then she became the curator at the Natur-Museum Senckenberg.

     Edinger started losing her hearing when she was a teenager.  She used hearing aids.  She said without a hearing aid she was deaf.  When the Nazis took over Germany she continued to work secretly.  When her family was discovered by the Nazis her fathers street was renamed and her motherís statue was torn down because they were Jewish. 

Tilly Edinger's father's street

© Texas Woman's University
While working on the original Deaf Scientists Web site, a student was constructing the biography of Tilly Edinger, and read that a street was named after her father, and a statue of her mother was in the town square. The student wondered what became of the street and statue after the war. He contacted a school for the deaf in Germany and explained what he was doing. He asked a teacher at the school if the street was still there, and what it looked like. In response, the students located the street, took three photos of it, and sent a map highlighting where it was. We subsequently posted it on the original deaf scientist Web site and transferred it to this site upon its creation.

          She escaped Germany and went to England.  She then moved to the United States because the United States was giving out jobs to people who had to escape.  She started working as an assistant at the Museum of Comparative Zoology.  She continued her study of paleoneurology there.

       The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology wanted Edinger to update her study of the brains of extinct animals.  She won a fellowship from the American Association of University Women which helped pay for her to do just that.  She traveled around Europe and studied fossils in museums so she could update her records.

The Evolution of the Horse Brain

Picture Courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History

After she put together all her information she wrote the book The Evolution of the Horse Brain.  She also wrote a book called the Bibliography of Fossil Vertebrates, Exclusive of North America: 1509-1927.  This was a collection of all the work she had done in the United States.  In 1963 she became the president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.  She is now known as the scientist who started the study of paleoneurology. 

She was hit by a car and died on May 27, 1967.



Honorary degree from Wellesley College

Honorary degree from Justus Liebig University

Honorary degree from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University

Fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation


Web Links


Freidenreich, Harriet. (2009). "Tilly Edinger." In Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.  Retrieved June 4, 2008 from Jewish Women's Archive:

Lang, H. G., & Meath-Lang, B. (1995). Tilly Edinger.  In A Biographical Dictionary: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences(pp.105-108). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Wolf, M. (2000). Tilly Edinger. Retrieved from Wellesley College: