Edward H. Rulloff

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Edward H. Rulloff (sometimes Ruloff, Rulofson, or Rulloffson, 1819/1820 – May 18, 1871) was a noted philologist and a murderer.

Rulloff is also notable for his brain, which is said to be the second largest brain on record, [1] with 1673 cm3. It can be seen on display at the psychology department of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.


Rulloff was born near Saint John, New Brunswick, to German immigrant parents. (His brother was photographer William Rulofson.)

He moved about in Upstate New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio for several years.

Self-educated, Rulloff studied many fields and excelled at philology. In 1869, he presented his theory of language origins, "The Method of Languages," to the American Philological Association. He believed his book, Method in the Formation of Language, would prove to be definitive.


Rulloff was accused of many crimes during his life. He was in jail several times but was released due to a lack of evidence. As a youth, he served a two-year jail sentence for embezzlement before moving to Ithaca, New York.

He was accused of beating his wife and daughter to death, and of poisoning his sister-in-law and niece.

In 1870, he was sentenced to death for the murder of a store clerk, Frederick Merrick, in Binghamton, New York.


Due to his prominence as a philologist, some people believed that Rulloff's life should be spared so that he could continue to contribute to that field of study. Mark Twain wrote a satirical editorial, proposing that some other person should be hanged in Rulloff's place.

His execution was the last public hanging in New York. Some sources claim he gave a speech on the gallows, ending with, "Hurry it up! I want to be in hell in time for dinner."[2] Other sources say that his only statement was, "I can't stand still."[3] After his death, a Cornell University professor, Burt Wilder, declared Rulloff's brain to be the largest on record. It can be seen on display in the Wilder Brain Collection.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ New York Times, Nov. 7, 1972, p. 37
  2. ^ Profile of Rulloff
  3. ^ The Life and Death of Edward H. Rulloff