Phrenological plaster cast heads, 1823-1950.
3 3 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 25cm

Phrenological plaster cast heads, 1823-1950.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


These heads by various makers were used to illustrate the theories of phrenology, and belong to the Wadebridge Town Institution in Cornwall. Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), a Viennese physician, 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. Although phrenology never achieved the status of an accredited science, the principle that many functions are localised in the brain is now widely accepted.

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