Phrenological head of unidentified male

Made:
1827 in Edinburgh

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Plaster phrenological head of unidentified male, 19th century.

Francis Gall (1758-1828) founded phrenology. This theory argued reading bumps and lumps of the skull, and therefore the brain, gave clues about a person’s personality and character. This plaster cast of an unknown man was made in July 1827 and signed ‘O’Neil’. Further writing is illegible. O’Neil was a maker based in Edinburgh who had published a catalogue in 1823 of phrenological heads for sale. This was just three years after the Phrenological Society was founded in Edinburgh in 1820. Phrenological heads were often cast from society figures, criminals and indigenous peoples. People carrying out consultations used them as reference guides. The cast may have been presented as evidence of the supposed ‘superiority’ of the European race.

Phrenology became popular in the 1800s. However, it became controversial within medical circles. It was eventually dismissed by the medical profession as quackery. Phrenology was still studied in the UK until the British Phrenological Society closed in 1967.

Details

Category:
Psychology, Psychiatry & Anthropometry
Object Number:
1992-34/26
type:
phrenological head
credit:
Philip Mutton ARICS