The Secret Life of the Brain
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History of the Brain
Franz Joseph Gall

Franz Joseph Gall

Franz Joseph Gall, a German anatomist, founds the study of phrenology, which holds that a person's character and personality can be discerned by reading the configuration of bumps on his head.
Gall states that the brain is composed of thirty-one personality organs, each with a specific mental function and each found at a specific location in the cerebral convolutions of the brain. He draws his conclusions from studies in which he examines the heads of specific groups of individuals, who he believes represent "the extremes of society" such as criminals or clergyman. One of the basic premises of phrenology is that the larger a particular convolution in a person's brain the greater the role that particular personality attribute will play in his character. According to Gall, combativeness, courage, the instinct to fight and the tendency to oppose could be found in "the posterior part of the inferior temporal convolution" while cautiousness, foresight, circumspection and the organ of melancholy lurked in the "supra-marginal convolution". As peculiar as these theories may seem, they were widely accepted at the time, perhaps because phrenology claimed to offer a method to objectively assess and judge the character of others. At the height of the phrenology craze, some people suggested that politicians should be chosen based on the shape of their skulls while others claimed to be able to detect signs of latent delinquency in children based on the bumps on their heads.


Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

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