Marian Diamond is a rock star of UC Berkeley.

At 83, with her hair swept up in a chignon and always elegantly dressed, Diamond’s classes on Integrative Biology routinely draw more than 750 students.

But that is not the source of her popularity. She is a rock star because she has gone viral.

Diamond’s lectures on human anatomy have been posted on You Tube. One of her lectures is the second-most popular “open education” lecture in the world, according to a recent article in the New York Times.  It has been viewed 1.5 million times since 2005.

“She begins by opening a colorful hatbox,” the reporter for the Times wrote in describing one of her televised lectures. “Dressed in an elegant suit and scarf with her hair swept back into a chig­non, Professor Diamond pulls on a pair of latex gloves and reveals the box’s contents: a human brain. It is in alcohol, she says, “because alcohol will preserve the brain. Need I say more?” The students laugh as they take this in. She has the room in the palm of her hands.”

Other UC Berkeley professors are also popular in the on-line world. In fact, Berkeley professors’ lectures take three spots in the Times’ list of the most-viewed open education lectures.

Richard A. Muller’s lecture on Physics for Future Presidents comes right behind Diamond’s lecture. (Muller also won a Northern California Book Award for his book on the subject.) Sims 141: Search Engines, Technology, and Science holds #6 position on the most-viewed list. The course is taught by Professor Marti Hearst, but this lecture has a guest speaker: Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google.

Diamond’s specialty is neuroanatomy. A former director of the Lawrence Hall of Science, she has spent time in Cambodia in recent years, studying the impact of diet and living conditions on impoverished children.

Frances Dinkelspiel

Frances Dinkelspiel (co-founder) is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,...

Join the Conversation

4 Comments

  1. She gives me a chance to learn while waiting for my chance to go to college. Many ppl go to college but there are few like her and I. Ones who seek improving everyone with us!

  2. Marian Diamond’s book “Magic Trees of the Mind” was a terrific read for me when my children were first born. Her description of how children’s brains develop gave me inspiration for parenting. It’s a great gift for expectant parents.

  3. Thanks, Berkeleyside, for the pointer.

    Other readers: the videos take some time commitment but my first impression is that they are well worth it. Aside from the fascinating subject matter (which in the introductory lecture she sells well as being well worth learning) – her skills as a lecturer are incredibly polished and engaging. There are many great lecturers. Fewer that can handle a room of 750 well. Fewer still to of which, compelled to say something, you’re tempted towards superlatives.

    The NY Times article is a bit misleading, making such a big deal about her use of the brain as a prop. Her main props (and this in a lecture hall of 750) are chalkboards. She takes some time to explain why in the first lecture.