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study of the shape of the human skull in order to draw conclusions about particular character traits and mental faculties. The theory was developed about 1800 by the German physiologist Franz Joseph Gall and popularized in the United States by Orson Fowler and Lorenzo Fowler through their publication the Phrenological Almanac and other publications. Modern neurology and physical anthropology have refuted the theory and consider its use a form of quackery.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a false theory that certain mental abilities are localized in various sectors of the human brain and can be distinguished by palpating the skull. Phrenology was developed by the Austrian physician and anatomist F. Gall; it was especially popular in the first half of the 19th century, owing to its propagation by Gall’s student J. Spurzheim and his followers in Western Europe. Dozens of phrenological societies were founded in Europe in the 1830’s and 1840’s. Phrenological data were used to diagnose mental and character traits. The achievements of physiologists, for example, M. J. P. Flourens in France, showed the insubstantiality of phrenology, which nevertheless continued to arouse interest until the early 20th century.

In the 1870’s a number of scientists, including G. Fritsch and E. Hitzig of Germany, developed theories concerning the localization of mental functions in various zones of the cortex of the large hemispheres of the brain. Their theories were sometimes called the new phrenology.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(formerly) the branch of science concerned with localization of function in the human brain, esp determination of the strength of the faculties by the shape and size of the skull overlying the parts of the brain thought to be responsible for them
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Other sometimes itinerant practitioners in early America included phrenologists. Phrenology claimed that the secrets of the human mind were revealed by the shape of a person's skull.
of phrenologists, surgeons, anatomists and criminologists.
A trope of nonengagement, irony marks the scene where the phrenologist measures Marlow's skull.
Like the 19th century phrenologist who minutely surveyed every bump on the skull, Isupov asks us to examine the inner self, the darkness within, to peer beyond the obvious to the most secret.
Fitzgerald, "expert in character analysis," noted phrenologist of thirty--five years, compared their photos.
During the 1850s, an itinerant phrenologist evangelized about the virtues of octagonal barns; others promoted round barn construction, leaving Vernon County with ten circular barns that can be seen today.
He felt sure that he was an "old soul." He would have gladly spent his last few pennies on a consultation with a medium or phrenologist. He felt that he was a failure, a good for nothing.
Although Cape liberals in general rejected the theory, even a liberal like Thomas Pringle sent skulls, as data, to his phrenologist friends in Europe.
history, he argues that a phrenologist, Nelson Sizer, was the true
In the Old Catacombs of Mexico and Peru, cranial distortions are found which would set at defiance the profoundest phrenologist who ever undertook to measure the human intellect with a pair of compasses ...
I'd stick to the science of my psychology books to learn about a phrenologist's dream.