Phrenology is basically the study of personality through the study of the shape of the skull. The basis of this theory is that the brain conforms to the shape of the head and its contours. This pseudoscience says that because we have isolated where different parts of personality come from we can tell how dominant this trait would be in a person’s life by the size of the piece of the brain. We have since proven that this theory is not true. Franz Joseph Gall is considered to be the founder of the direct scientific link between the morphology of the skull and personality traits. Gall was one of the first scientists to consider the brain the home of all mental activities. His main work was called The Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System in General, and of the Brain in Particular. In this article he put forth five points that phrenology was based on in general.
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1. That moral and intellectual faculties and innate.
2. That their exercise or manifestation depends on organization.
3. That the brain is an organ of all the propensities, sentiments, and faculties.
4. The brain is composed of many particular organs as there are different propensities, sentiments, and faculties which differ from one another.
5. That the form of the head or cranium represents the form of the brain, and thus represents the relative development of the brain organs.
Gall linked the faculties with precise brain localizations through careful observation and expensive experimental measures. Johann Spurzheim’s contribution to phrenology was also great. He helped Gall in a study of brain injuries with the phrenology concept Gall had created. He also studied many cases of aphasia following victim’s cranial injuries in battle. In 1832, he arrived in America, which was at that time desperate for insight into human personality, and started on a lecture circuit that eventually killed him only six months into it.
While Spurzheim was in America he managed to inspire two young, frustrated evangelists whose names were Lorenzo Niles Fowler and Orson S. Fowler. These two are largely responsible for spreading phrenology throughout the country. They traveled from town to town carrying the truth of phrenology. They offered lectures, readings, and to evaluate the charteristics of total strangers through the bumps and valleys on their heads. Soon everyone from small-town folk to the rich and famous were getting readings. It became a fad throughout America. Hairstyles were changed to show off attractive phrenological features. Employers wanted people with certain phrenological profiles. They even asked for a reading by the Fowler’s as a reference. The Fowler’s New York office, called the Phrenological Cabinet became one of the most visited attractions in town.
It served as a museum of sorts also containing hundreds of heads of famous people. The Fowler’s also published a great amount of material. They put out the American Phrenological Journal and Miscellany, many books and materials on phrenology, and they published the first volume by a young writer named Walt Whitman. They were considered the leading phrenologists of their time. Franz Joseph Gall Phrenology was a craze in the 1800s. Everyone wanted to have a reading. People even wanted to show off their more exciting phrenological features by changing their hairstyles. The craze went as far as employers only wanting certain characteristics found in their phrenological profiles. The only problem with all of these things is that phrenology has no scientific basis at all.
The craze went as far as employers only wanting certain characteristics found in their phrenological profiles. The only problem with all of these things is that phrenology has been proven wrong. First of all, it appears that most of Gall’s early research was done on criminals and the insane. This led him to place theft organs and murder organs in the brain. Spurzheim later got rid of these and replaced them with such things as benevolence and self-esteem. Second of all scientists know today that personality is not isolated in different parts of the brain. The parts interact in a way that wasn’t realized in the 1800s. While phrenology still has its advocates for the most part it has been proved wrong and is out of date.
Phrenology has been important though. It has brought about psychological theories that might not have been thought of for years. It has influenced some of the great thinkers and writers of our time. Such as Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, Queen Victoria of Great Britain, and hundreds of others. It has allowed us to move on to a new way of thinking that will most likely carry us into the future as a society or possibly to another new line of thinking that is even more accurate than current thought.
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