Sixty miniature heads used in phrenology

This is a wonderful image of a 1831 set of sixty miniature heads used to demonstrate the principles of phrenology from the Science Museum in London.

phren_heads.jpg

The science museum has a page dedicated to the set, which comes in a wonderful wooden display case, that also includes some other images and information about the exhibit.

Phrenology originated with Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), a German physician, assisted by his colleague, Johann Kaspar Spurzheim (1809-72). Phrenologists believed that the shape and size of various areas of the brain (and therefore the overlying skull) determined personality.

Gall and Spurzheim eventually disagreed and went on to promote rival systems of phrenology. These heads are numbered according to Spurzheim’s classification. The heads may have been used to teach phrenology but were probably made as a general reference collection.

A wide range of different heads are present. For instance, head number 54 is that of a scientific man; head number 8 is recorded as the head of an ‘idiot’. The heads were made by William Bally, who studied under Spurzheim from 1828 onwards.

Link to Science Museum exhibit page (via the wonderful <a href"Fortean Times).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s