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Edward H. Rulloff (sometimes Rulofson or Rulloffson) (b. 1819 or 1820-d.1871) was a noted philologist and criminal. Rulloff is also notable for his brain which as of 1970 is the second largest on record.[1] and can be seen on display at the psychology department at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Rulloff was born near St. John, New Brunswick to German immigrants. As a youth, he served a two-year jail sentence for embezzlement before moving to Ithaca. Self-educated, Rulloff studied many fields, but excelled at linguistics. In 1869, he presented his theory of language origins The Method of Languages to the American Philological Association. Rulloff believed that his book, "Method in the Formation of Language" would prove to be definitive.

Rulloff was accused of many crimes during his lifetime. Notably, he was accused of beating his wife and daughter to death as well as poisoning his sister-in-law and niece. Rulloff spent time in prison on several occasions but was always released due to a dearth of evidence against him. Rulloff moved about Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio for several years. In 1870, Rulloff was sentenced to death for the murder of a store clerk in Binghamton, New York. Because of his notoriety as a linguist, some people believed that Rulloff's life should be spared so that he could continue to contribute to that field of study. Mark Twain satirically wrote an editorial, proposing that another individual be hanged in Rulloff's place.

Rulloff's execution was the last public hanging in New York. Rulloff's final words were "Hurry it up! I want to be in hell in time for dinner."[2] After his death, Cornell professor Burt Wilder declared Rulloff's brain, the largest on record.[3] Rulloff's brain can be seen on display as part of the Wilder Brain Collection. A tavern in Ithaca bears Rulloff's name[4].

Rulloff was the brother of photographer, William Rulofson.


  1. ^ New York Times, Nov. 7, 1972, p. 37
  2. ^
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  4. ^ Rulloff's - the Story Rulloff's Bar and Grill website, 411 College Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850 Access 4-6-2009

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