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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Of course, no phrenologist or mainstream psychologist would dare express such opinions, at least in public; nevertheless, for the Catholic and Protestant Churches--those very institutions whose teachings were sending adherents in droves to the asylums--the science of mind was a new threat to their tyranny over the minds of men and women.*
Though the Times editor wrote positively about Life Illustrated in "The Two Systems" (November 6, 1858), "phrenologists" were belittled along with "free-lover, ultra-abolitionists" and others in "The Radicals in Council" (June 29, 1858)--yet another example of the "identity crisis" of the Times" editorial page.
Demonstrations will include the creation of poultices, teas, and other remedies by OSV's costumed historians and portrayals of a traveling dentist, a ship's surgeon from the War of 1812, and a phrenologist. Visitors can also see antique medical implements from the Village's collection.
twenty-first century, physiognomists, phrenologists, criminologists,
at 298 (commenting on the phrenologists who examined Palmer's head and concluding that he must have been "utterly deficient in moral perception"); see also CARNELL, supra note 11, at 165 (commenting on Braddon's interest in Palmer).
(30) However, one must also be always wary of falling into the trap that devoured the phrenologist. In the early nineteenth century, phrenologists believed that people with an extreme trait would have an overly developed portion of the brain devoted to that function, creating a protrusion on the skull.
Psychologists distanced themselves from the bogus claims of phrenologists to create both comprehensive psychoanalytic theories, as with Freud, and rigorous empirical methodologies that described human behavior in ways that shunned Victorian moralism.
The question has captivated philosophers and scientists for millennia, from the ancient Greeks and their humors to the 19th-century phrenologists who believed they could divine someone's personality by mapping the bumps on his skull.
Blackpool, of course, did have everything in the 1950s, including a Golden Mile that boasted penny arcades, phrenologists, fortune tellers, candy floss and sideshows featuring live mermaids and hairy ladies.
Post, who fortified his finances with Grape Nuts and Postum, attracted nudists, homeopaths, mesmerists, phrenologists, pacifists, abolitionists, prohibitionists, and feminists, as well as the derision of those who dismissed them all as fakes and crazies.
It is also clear in Nature and the Supernatural and elsewhere that Bushnell knew the metaphysical tribe well (he called them "naturalists"), from pantheists to phrenologists to new enthusiasts for the South Asian "Brama" (read Transcendentalists).
Relying on supposedly empirical data, physiognomists and phrenologists reported distinctions between the bone structure of tinkers, who could be recognized by their strong jaws and cheekbones, and those of settled people whose prominent bones encased rational brains.