Ivory phrenological head, 1830-1890.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 25cm x 32cm

Ivory phrenological head, 1830-1890.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Miniature phrenological bust posibly intended as the top of a walking stick. 37 phrenological organs are marked out and numbered with the names appearing on the stem. This bust shows how the number of organs in phrenology was increased from its early formation by Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) - when only 27 were recorded - to the latter days when as many as 80 were claimed by some as proven 'facts'. 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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