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The 83-year old rock star professor at Cal

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. In this essay, she describes how she came to work with children injured by land mines.