Phrenological heads, 1831.
3 4 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 26cm

Phrenological heads, 1831.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Wooden case containing sixty small phrenological heads made by the phrenologist William Bally of Dublin, Ireland, to illustrate the theories of phrenology promoted by the Viennese physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828). Gall proposed that the contours of the skull followed the brain's shape, with each region responsible for an aspect of personality or behaviour. Feeling the lumps was like reading the mind. He called his system organology, but it later became known as phrenology, derived from the Greek word 'phren' for mind. Phrenology never achieved the status of an accredited science, although the principle that many functions are localised in the brain is now widely accepted.

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