An Introduction to Phrenology

Jun 17, 2013 by

intro PhrenologyAN INTRODUCTION TO PHRENOLOGY by Robert MacNish  was first published waaaaaay back in 1837.

A few words from his foreword to give you a feel for this fascinating old text about phrenology, the pseudoscience of focusing on the bumps and measurements of the human skull to give information on the person’s character and personality…

“My first ideas of Phrenology were obtained from Dr. Gall himself, its founder, whose lectures I attended in Paris during the year 1825. Before that time 1, in common with almost all who are ignorant of the subject, spoke of it with great contempt, and took every opportunity of turning it into ridicule. The discourses of this great man, and several private conversations which I had the honour of holding with him, produced a total change in my ideas, and convinced me that the doctrines he taught, so far from deserving the absurd treatment which they then generally met with, were, in themselves, highly beautiful as expositions of the human mind in its various phases, and every way worthy of attention.

Much reflection and many appeals to nature, since that period, have satisfied me of their truth. Few subjects have encountered such persevering hostility as the doctrines in question ; and persons now commencing the study can have little idea of the gross insults heaped upon its early cultivators by those who pretended to rule public opinion in matters of science and literature. Such usage, however, is not without many parallels in the history of the world. Persecution is the reward of innovation in whatever form that appears. To the truth of this assertion the banishment of Pythagoras, the poison cup of Socrates and the dungeon gloom of Galileo bear ample testimony. In our own country the sublime discoveries of Newton were long violently opposed, and Harvey, for ascertaining the most important fact in modern physiology, the circulation of the blood, was rewarded with abuse and the loss of his practice.

In France things were no better — Descartes, one of the greatest geniuses that ever lived, having had the charge of atheism leveled against him for maintaining the doctrine of innate ideas. The stale trick of representing discoveries in science as hostile to religion, has, indeed, always been a favourite one with the enemies of knowledge, and even in these comparatively enlightened times is frequently had recourse to by the designing and the ignorant. Nothing is more common than to hear modern geology denounced as at variance with the word of God, and its cultivators held up as a conclave of infidels ; nor has Phrenology escaped the same absurd charge, in the face of the notorious truth, that it is openly advocated by some of the most intelligent and pious of our clergy, and that the parent Phrenological Society was founded by the Rev. Dr. Welsh, Professor of Church History in the University of Edinburgh.”

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