Edward H. Rulloff

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Edward H. Rulloff (sometimes Rulofson or Rulloffson; 1819/1820 – May 18, 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 Saint John, New Brunswick to German immigrant parents. His brother was photographer William Rulofson. As a youth, Rulloff 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. He believed his book, Method in the Formation of Language, would prove to be definitive.[citation needed]

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. He 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 named Frederick Merrick, in Binghamton, New York.

Due to his fame 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. While some sources claim he gave a speech on the scaffold, ending with "Hurry it up! I want to be in hell in time for dinner,"[2] others indicate he declined any formal last words, with his only statement on the gallows being "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 as part of the Wilder Brain Collection.


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

Edmund Pearson Instigation of the Devil (New York, London: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1930), Chapter XXI: The "Learned" Murderer, p.   255-264, 354.

External links[edit]