; Franz Joseph Gall and the Theory of Phrenology
Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out
Your Federal Quarterly Tax Payments are due April 15th Get Help Now >>

Franz Joseph Gall and the Theory of Phrenology

VIEWS: 233 PAGES: 18

  • pg 1
									                     Franz Joseph Gall and the Theory of Phrenology

                                       Daniel Nale
                            Email: dan02c@garnet.acns.fsu.edu

                                 CCJ 5606, Dr. Cecil Greek

       In the history of criminology, there have been many theories of the causation of

crime and criminals. They have covered a broad range of disciplines, from the religious

to the sociological, and to the scientific. This paper deals with one of the first theories on

personality development - a theory that could fit in the biological, or pathological, model

of deviance. It is the theory and practice of phrenology, created by the physician Franz

Joseph Gall.   Many historians attribute the beginning of pathological model of deviant

behavior to Cesare Lombroso and his work done in the 1870‟s (Pfohl, 1994:104).

However, as Sue Reid (1994:130) points out, “if the study of phrenology is considered

applicable, we are placing the beginning of scientific criminology about seventy years

before the contributions of Lombroso”.

       Gall (1758-1828), born in Tiefenbrum in Baden, Germany, received his medical

degree in Vienna in 1785, after studying in Strasbourg (Bridges, 1997, para. 3). While

employed at a Vienna asylum, Gall began studying the heads of patients there (Allen,

1998, para. 5). As Randy Allen (1998, para.5) writes, “from these observations, he

determined that mental powers were indicated by configurations visible upon the head”.

Gall then began to lecture on his findings while still in Vienna in 1796, and in 1798 he

published his first work on the observations (Van Wyhe, 2002a:24). Gall developed his

work into a system, which he later termed the “physiology of the brain” (Van Wyhe,

2002a:22). This system was later given the name phrenology by an English physician,
and, ironically enough, Gall did not approve of the name, even though it is still used

today (Van Wyhe, 2002a:22).

       Before discussing Gall‟s theory in detail, it is important to examine the

environment in which he developed it. From a criminology viewpoint, pathological

ideologies that differed from the classical or demonic perspective were considered, as

Stephen Pfohl (1994:104) writes, “a dramatic break” from those earlier models.

Deviance was before considered a choice, as well as a sin (Pfohl, 1994:104). Later in this

work it will be illustrated how Gall‟s work can be applied to the study of deviant

behavior; for the time being the focus should be on Gall‟s original profession. Therefore,

from a medical viewpoint, Gall‟s work was somewhat revolutionary and controversial.

This is not to say that individuals such as Gall disrespectfully swung their ideas into the

face of established theorizing. Instead, as John Van Wyhe (2002a:20) states, “theorizing

within the medical community was common”. He also describes the medical community

in Vienna as “vibrant” (Van Wyhe, 2002a:20). The regime in Vienna during the time

Gall was developing his theories was headed by Franz II, the last of the Roman Emperors

(Van Wyhe, 2002a:20). Van Wyhe (2002a:20) states that in this time frame, Gall‟s

theories “were not radically new, but they were provocative and memorable”. Despite

this seemingly tolerant backdrop, as will be discussed, Gall did encounter opposition

from the Vienna regime for his work.

       What about Gall‟s work was controversial? Robert Young (1998:11) writes that

Gall had the “first empirical approach both to the nature of the faculties and to their

localizations”. When Gall began to develop his theory, understanding of the brain was

scarce, and that understanding was not based on scientific speculations (Sabbatini, 1997a,
para.2). Indeed, as Renato Sabbatini (1997a, para.3) writes, the science of brain study

was “bleak”. Knowledge of the brain was gathered from dissections performed on dead

bodies of both humans and animals (Sabbatini, 1997a, para.2). Gall‟s ideas therefore

began to shed light on the brain, and in the process argued against some of the more

common held beliefs of his day. As Robert Young (1998:16) writes:

       There was something „biologically given‟ in the abilities of men and animals, and
       it was this that Gall maintained in the face of the sensationalism of his time. He
       was not upholding the doctrine of innate ideas; he was upholding differences in
       natural endowment. This viewpoint led him to reject the optimism of the more
       sanguine environmentalists and to insist that the moral perfectibility of the human
       species is confined within the limits of its organization.

Gall‟s theory therefore argued directly against the viewpoint of the “tabula rasa” – that

the mind was a blank slate upon birth (Young, 1998:15). Interestingly, Young (1998:16)

states that this viewpoint from Gall resulted in “much trouble within his own thought”.

This depiction is in slight contrast to the medical community described above by Van

Wyhe, but it will be understandable once opposition to Gall‟s work is discussed.

       Even if information on the brain was inadequate, it should be noted what other

theorists of Gall‟s time felt on the matter, whether their viewpoint be medical or from

other disciplines. Steven Novella (2000, para.3) writes that in the 18th and 19th Centuries

there were two schools of thought on brain organization. One believed that the brain was

“homogenous”, and that it always worked as one unit to produce body functioning

(Novella, 2000, para.3). An individual function of the body could not therefore be

associated with one particular part of the brain (Novella, 2000, para.3). A main

proponent of this group was Albrecht von Haller, and as Van Wyhe (2002a:21) reports,

his work was “the prevailing view of brain function in the 1790‟s”. The other group

believed that the “brain was exquisitely compartmentalized”, and that individual body
functions could be found to have originated in distinct areas of the brain (Novella, 2000,

para.4). In addition, this school believed that these particular areas of the brain were

responsible for only a single function (Novella, 2000, para.4). This theory that formed

the basis of the second school of thought was initially brought forth by Gall (Novella,

2000, para.4).

       Prior to these two realms of focus, theories on mental makeup were all across the

board. Even though some of the earliest theorists (such as Hippocrates, Pythagoras,

Galen, Erisistratus, and Plato) believed that the soul of people was tied into the brain, the

“pneumatic physiologists of the middle ages thought that mental capacities were located

in the fluid of the ventricles” (Wozniak, 1996, Chap.5, para.1). Others theorized “moral

sentiments” could be found in the thoracic region of the body – such as the stomach for

example (Combe, 1834, para.5). Aristotle felt “intellectual faculties” were found in the

heart, while Des Cartes thought they were contained in a particular gland (Combe,

para.5). It was not until around 1784 that the prevailing interest in these matters changed

to consider the brain as the primary host of mental faculties (Wozniak, 1996, Chap.5,

para.1). Regardless, George Combe (1834, para.6) writes that a “great number” of

physiologists and philosophers still felt “that all men are born with equal mental

faculties”, and that differences between them are the direct result of “education, or to the

accidental circumstances in which they are placed”. As already mentioned, Gall did not

subscribe to that belief of the mind as a blank slate. Indeed, as Combe (1834, para.6)

writes, Gall saw firsthand “that his …schoolfellows had all received very nearly the same

education, but that he had still observed each of them unfolding a distinct character, over

which circumstances appeared to exert only a limited control”.
       Prior to reviewing his theory, it should be noted quickly how Gall came about to

beginning his research. Jason Bridges (1997, para.4) writes that Gall in college noticed a

distinguishing characteristic of certain men who were better at memorizing material than

he was; men who, interestingly enough, Gall felt to be his inferior. Specifically, he

observed eyeballs of considerable size in these men (Bridges, 1997, para.4). As a result,

he thought the reason they were better at memorizing was because the area of the brain

responsible for memorizing was directly behind the eyes, causing the eyes to be larger

than normal (Bridges, 1997, para.4). It was therefore a short leap for Gall to hypothesize

that other parts of the brain might cause observable differences in the heads of people

(Bridges, 1997, para.4). These early observations paved the way to his subsequent work,

which in turn assured his place in history.

                                         Section II

       The core of Gall‟s theory is based on a direct relationship between a person‟s

characteristics and the subsequent shape of their head; specifically, that one can map and

determine a person‟s personality traits from the shape of their skull. All the main points

of Gall‟s theory are outlined in a letter he wrote in 1798, which are hereby summarized.

       To begin the letter, Gall (1798, para.2) first states the purpose of his theory:

               My purpose is to ascertain the functions of the brain in general, and those
               of its different parts in particular; to show that is possible to ascertain
               different dispositions and inclinations by the elevations and depressions
               upon the head; and to present in a clear light the most important
               consequences which result therefrom to medicine, morality, education,
               and legislation a word, to the science of human nature.
He outlines his “fundamental principles” (Gall, 1798, Part I, para.1) into seven points.

The first is the “faculties” contain the “propensities” inherent in animals and man (Gall,

1798, Part I, para.2). With this point Gall argues against the view that a person is a

product of his environment. As he writes, “those who would persuade themselves that

our dispositions (or qualities) are not innate, would attribute them to education” (Gall,

1798, Part I, para.3). Gall (1798, Part I, para.3) does maintain that people can control

these inherent traits under most circumstances, but he mentions examples of people who

cannot resist urges to steal or kill. He then states that punishment on such individuals is

“not less unjust than useless: they merit indeed only our compassion” (Gall, 1798, Part I,

para.3). Gall‟s (1798, Part I, para.4) second principle is that these qualities and

inclinations of humans are contained within the brain. Gall (1798, Part I, para.4)

maintains that the mind is affected by injuries to the brain instead of other parts of the

body, and he also writes that the brain is “not necessary to life”. Another important point

Gall (1798, Part I, para.4) asserts under this principle is:

                The qualities of the mind, or, the faculties and propensities of men and
                animals, are multiplied and elevated in direct ratio to the increase of the
                mass of brain, proportionally to that of the body; and especially in
                proportion to the nervous mass….A man like you possesses more than
                double the quantity of brain in a stupid bigot, and at least one sixth more
                than the wisest or the most sagacious elephant.

        The third and fourth principles of Gall‟s theory are maintained together in Gall‟s

outline.   These two principles maintain that the “faculties” and “propensities” are

separate from each other in the brain, and that the individual categories are further

separated from each other (Gall, 1798, Part I, para.5). That is to say, all “faculties” are

distinct from each other, in addition to all “propensities” being distinct from each other

(Gall, 1798, Part I, para.5). Gall (1798, Part I, para.5) also believes that each of these
qualities had their own place in the brain, and each of these spots was independent from

the next. He also holds that these qualities can develop on different levels, in different

time frames – that one might diminish while another grows stronger (Gall, 1798, Part I,


       Gall‟s (1798, Part I, para.9) fifth principle is that other organs in the body are

affected in their development by the formation of the brain. Gall (1798, Part I, para.9)

writes that this principle can help define the differences in individuals and animal species.

Gall‟s (1798, Part I, para.10) sixth principle holds that the development of the qualities

inherent in the brain result in the brain‟s overall form. On this point Gall (1798, Part I,

para.10) states, “an organ is the more active, the more it is developed”.

       Gall‟s seventh principle deals with the shape of the skull. He theorizes that the

form of the skull is determined by the shape of the brain (Gall, 1798, Part I, para.11).

Because of this, Gall (1798, Part I, para.11) feels that through the shape of the skull one

can determine the “faculties” and “propensities” that are contained within the brain. Gall

(1798, Part I, para.11) says that the brain and skull develop, “in the same proportion, and

the same order, as the manifestation of the faculties and natural propensities”. Therefore,

according to this principle, an overdeveloped (or perhaps, underdeveloped) quality of the

brain would reflect as such in the skull and could be recognized by someone trained in

Gall‟s theory.

       The second part of Gall‟s letter deals with how he has and will continue to

conduct his research. Gall (1798, Part II, para.1) states, “As I suppose a particular organ

for each one of our independent qualities, we have only to establish what are the

independent qualities”. To do so he writes that he must examine the skull for elevations,
depressions, and protuberances, in addition to examining the person for marked

characteristics of their personality (Gall, 1798, Part II, para.1). He also writes that he will

use plaster models, and collect skulls of dead animals and people (Part II, para.1).

Studying actual brains along with injuries to them and disease that affects them is also

discussed (Gall, 1798, Part II, para.5-6).

       In this letter from Gall, one can see the beginning of the science of phrenology.

John Van Wyhe (2002b, para.1) calls phrenology, “a science of character divination”.

After Gall, there were many other practitioners of phrenology. Despite these other

practitioners and their opinions, it is interesting to note, as Van Wyhe (2002a:23) reports,

that although Gall continued his research for the rest of his life, he “never made any

substantial changes to his system after its formulation in the 1790‟s”.

                                         Section III

       Although Gall‟s theory was innovative given the time frame in which it was

developed, the methodology Gall and other phrenologists used was flawed; most of the

basic tenants of the theory have also been scientifically disproved by advancements in

research and technology. Shepherd Franz (1912, para.2) writes that although the concept

of phrenology was “naïve and crude”, it still “dominated” within the medical fields of

physiology and neurology for over a century. He also states that although Gall‟s work

and other phrenologist‟s subsequent work was not “received with entire confidence and

faith”, the concept on functions of the brain that phrenology proposed was “too alluring
to be dispensed with” (Franz, 1912, para.4). Eventually however, Gall‟s theory of

phrenology was “equated to other forms of quackery” (Sabbatini, 1997a, para.11).

       When critiquing Gall and phrenology, a logical starting block is the methodology

he and other phrenologists employed. The main method used to confirm Gall‟s findings

came from his study of the head‟s exterior form, and from his findings from autopsies

performed after the deaths of patients (Allen, 1998, para.5). Subsequent phrenologists

developed a method of mapping the head using a caliper tool (Allen, 1998, para.21). In

discussing this methodology, John Van Wyhe (2002b, para.3) contends that phrenologists

(including Gall) “sought only confirmations for their hypotheses and did not apply the

same standard to contradictory evidence”. Van Wyhe‟s (2002b, para.3) main point is that

such contradictory findings were “explained away”. His example is that of a person with

a supposed developed “organ of Benevolence”, who did not possess benevolent qualities,

which would in turn be explained by phrenologists as meaning “other organs

counteracted Benevolence” in the brain (Van Wyhe, 2002b, para.3). In summary of this

critique, Van Wyhe (2002b, para.3) writes:

               What was never accepted by phrenologists…was that admitting that the
               activity of a particular faculty could be independent of the size of its organ
               undermined the most fundamental assumptions of the science – and
               thereby rendered all of its conclusions inconsistent and meaningless.

       Gall‟s methodology was also attacked by Pierre Schlag. Although Schlag (1997,

para.45) admits Gall was not a “hack or charlatan” as other phrenologists were known to

be, he was “not even-handed with his own methodological commitments”. Specifically,

Gall would rely on evidence he felt supported his claims, but he “had no fixed criteria, no

standard, no threshold at all, for deciding what constituted supporting evidence” (Schlag,

1997, para.45). Instead of taking the position of further study and discovery to support
their claims, phrenologists worked from the assumption they already possessed “secure

and certain knowledge” (Schlag, 1997, para.47). Schlag (1997, para.46) also reports that

if the evidence contradicted the diagnoses, it would be “explained away” – exactly the

same criticism Van Wyhe mentioned earlier in the above paragraph. Phrenologists

therefore, including Gall, “employed a shifting burden of proof : data tending to confirm

the veracity of phrenology were accepted immediately as evidence and treated as true,

while anomalies, falsifying data, and critical commentary were treated as presumptively

false and rejected” (Schlag, 1997, para.47).

       Robert Wozniak (1996, Chap.5, para. 5) writes that even if Gall‟s theory was

flawed, he did use sound scientific logic and in turn tested the theory rigorously.

Regardless, given his methods and the time period, parts of his theory truly could not be

tested empirically (Sabbatini, 1997b, para.3). This brings us to another researcher of

Gall‟s time who clashed with his findings through the use of a different methodology.

Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens, a French doctor and scientist, was Gall‟s “most persistent

opponent” (Wozniak, 1997, Chap.5, para.7). Through his work on brain dissection,

Flourens maintained the brain was only one organ, with regions of the brain controlling

body function (Allen, 1998, para.25). Flourens‟ experiments on birds demonstrated how

the animals could still function even if parts of their brain were removed (Allen, 1998,

para.25). These findings naturally were in sharp contrast to Gall‟s theory of the brain

consisting of multiple organs separate and distinct from each other. Also, it was

dissection work conducted on living animals, which Gall had not performed. Gall did

address Flourens‟ research by attacking dissection as a way to damage and disfigure all

the organs of the brain (Wozniak, 1997, Chap.5, para.10). Gall also felt that brain injury,
such as in the form of lesions, could not be isolated and removed; further, such injuries

would affect all organs of the brain (Young, 1998: 49). These objections to Flourens‟

work, however, have been termed “inadequate” (Young, 1998: 47).

       Besides this early work by Flourens, medical advancements since the time of Gall

have also discounted his theory. One of these is the fact that the overall size of the brain

does not grow larger or smaller depending upon usage (Novella, 2000, para.8). It has

been found that neural connections do grow stronger and denser, but they do not change

the brain‟s size (Novella, 2000, para.8). Also, the brain has been found to shape itself to

match to the shape of the skull, not the other way around as Gall theorized (Novella,

2000, para.8). These discoveries have been made possible through the use of technology,

such as computerized scanning devices, “which can render the anatomical relations

between the two structures with exquisite detail” (Sabbatini, 1997b, para.4).

       One final note should be made on the criticism Gall has faced on his theory. As

Gall was working on a multi-volume publication of his theory, a decree in December

1801 from the Emperor Franz II surprisingly banned Gall‟s work and suppressed his

lectures (Van Wyhe, 2002a:25). There were numerous reasons listed for this in the order

– one was the attendance of females at lectures, another being that some supporters of the

theory might “get carried away” (Van Wyhe, 2002a:25). Why this decree actually came

about is a matter of debate. Van Wyhe (2002a:25) reports that an article in 1806 blamed

Vienna‟s clergy, although he further states that there is not any direct evidence that the

clergy disagreed with Gall. Van Wyhe (2002a:25) instead maintains that “Gall‟s system

was of great interest to clergymen”. Apparently, there is also evidence that the

Emperor‟s physician was the jealous type, and that it was often his suggestion to the
Emperor to censor new ideas in the scientific and political worlds (Van Wyhe, 2002a:25).

Regardless as to why, Jason Bridges (1997, para.9) states that the Catholic Church

“branded Gall‟s work as deterministic and materialistic, and as having atheistic

implications”. The opposition from the Church did not fade - as Bridges (1997, para.9)

continues, “when Gall died, the Catholic Church denied him a Christian burial”.

Although not based on reasonable logic or scientific evidence, this criticism possibly

could have been the most damaging to Gall on a personal level.

                                        Section IV

       Although Gall‟s work did initially become popular, it has since been relegated to

be nothing more than a historical footnote, with some few exceptions that will be briefly

discussed. In researching this work this author found no current studies using the theory

of phrenology in the realm of criminological thought today. This research included

inspecting the internet, current book databases, and current journal databases as well. As

Robert Young (1997: 11-12) points out, Gall‟s work has been “totally abandoned by

subsequent investigators” with the exception of “some very lucky guesses”. However,

the theory that Gall proposed can be easily linked to the overall shape of criminological

thought, especially when viewing how other disciplines evolved from it.

       The theory that Gall purported did gain positive recognition. The ideas of Gall, as

reported by Randy Allen (1998, para.4), became very popular in the 19th Century. Allen

(1998, para.4) states that phrenology, “fit with the psyche of popular culture”. He also

writes that the discipline allowed people to consider themselves equal to others, and that

weaknesses (and strengths) could be identified and improved upon (Allen, 1998, para.4).
Allen (1998, para.4) also writes that the theory of phrenology became particularly

exceptional to the population of America, because “perfection, wealth, and power were

all within….reach”. Another comment on the popularity of Gall‟s theories is provided by

Renato Sabbatini (1997a, para.9):

       The logical and easy-to-learn structure of the phrenological theory quickly
       captured the imagination of thousands of followers. The preciseness and
       scientific assurance of its terms and maps made headway in a time where the main
       enemies of rationalism were religion, subjectivity, and autocracy. Due to this,
       Gall gained the support, if not the minds, of many important scientific and
       political figures in many parts of the world. He was their champion, in a terrain
       dominated by the teachings of religious philosophers.

It appears therefore from this reading that Gall and phrenology provided a creative spark

in an otherwise sparsely lit environment – both socially and scientifically. Concerning

usage, the theory reached its peak between 1820-1842; both the USA and Europe saw the

rise of parlors where people utilized the help of phrenologists for every aspect of life

(Sabbatini, 1997c, para.1). It was for that reason part of popular culture.

       Even so, it would be remiss to forget the extensive criticism that was brought

against phrenology reported on in Section III. As Steven Novella (2000, para.22) says,

“200 years of….neuroscience has shown phrenology to be false”. Does that mean

phrenology is completely dead in the realm of theorizing? As Renato Sabbatini (1997a,

para.11) writes, “amazingly enough, there are still followers and believers of phrenology

around”. The two most prominent followers of the 20th Century were Bernard Hollander,

a psychiatrist, and Paul Bouts, an educator (Sabbatini, 1997d, para.2). In Britain, there

was a Phrenological Society that lasted from 1886 to as late as 1967, and apparently there

may be a phrenological company in Britain that still sells phrenological items and

information (Sabbatini, 1997d, para.2). The business, called “The London Phrenology
Company”, founded by a Peter Cooper in 1983, was created in order to renew interest in

the theory (Van den Bossche, 1998b, para.5)

       Probably the most interesting information on the current state of phrenology today

is provided through the inspection of the work of Peter Van den Bossche, who is still a

proponent of the theory. He writes, “extensive experimental verification of the

Phrenological [localizations] have proven their practical value”, and “The Phrenological

analysis of personality remains of incomparable value to assess the character” (Van den

Bossche, 1998a, para.6). Van den Bossche (1998a, para.10) contends that the errors in

phrenological diagnosis occur due to mistakes made in the examinations of the head (or

incomplete examinations), “insufficient attention for the interaction between faculties”,

and because of brain disorders that change the normal shape of the brain. Van den

Bossche (1998a, para. 8) believes that by measuring a person‟s skull one can ascertain

which of his traits are developed, and therefore project “an overview of the subject‟s

character and personality”. This is exactly what Gall proposed two centuries earlier.

       Even though phrenology has been discounted and discredited, the use of the

theory can be linked to the development of criminological thought through examination

of the other disciplines it evolved into. Before that examination begins, it can be easily

seen how phrenology could be applied to deviant behavior. Earlier in this paper it was

mentioned that Gall studied patients in an insane asylum. As Matthew Vukin (1999,

para.28) writes, “phrenologists took a strong interest in the insane because they

represented subjects with overdeveloped faculties”. He also points out that phrenologists

explained insanity as a problem of the brain, and not a sign of God (Vukin, 1999,

para.28). As for criminals, the treatment and study of them was also a “natural bridge of
the phrenological theory” (Vukin, 1999, para.29). Criminals were viewed by

phrenologists as “unfortunate and curable” (Vukin, 1999, para.29). The basic use of

phrenology therefore, if correct, could help identify criminals by correlating skull

irregularities and their subsequent brain organs with deviant behavior. Gall himself

“manifested a desire to visit the prisons of Berlin” in order to study the people

incarcerated therein (Williams, 1894:48). He also was “especially requested to examine

the heads of prisoners” accused of crimes (Williams, 1894:49). When examining these

individuals, it was reported that “in every case, [Gall‟s] diagnosis agreed with the result

of the proceeding of their trial” (Williams, 1894:49).

       As for the other disciplines that phrenology evolved into, Renato Sabbatini

(1997a, para.11) reports that the theory is responsible for the rise of other “branches

based on the quantitative analysis of facial and cranial features”, such as anthropometry,

psychognomy, and craniology. Anthropometry and craniology involved measuring facial

and cranial features in order to classify, identify, and document subjects (Sabbatini,

1997d, para.6-7). Alphonse Bertillion used and expanded anthropometry to take

measurements of convicted criminals‟ bodies in order to help identify future criminals

(Sabbatini, 1997d, para.7). A modification of these techniques was later developed by

Cesare Lombroso (Sabbatini, 1997d, para.7). Would these theories have been developed

if Gall had not first postulated his? Possibly; as it is Gall certainly must have been quite

influential to some of this work. One researcher, Moriz Benedikt (1881: vii), in his book

“Anatomical Studies upon Brains of Criminals”, credits Gall in the Preface, stating

“however greatly Gall erred in detail, the impetus he gave was very powerful”.
       These offshoots of phrenology made more of an impact in modern times. Up

until the 1930‟s, some justice systems still employed the use of anthropometric

measurements of defendants in their own trials (Sabbatini, 1997d, para.7). A more

prominent (and unfortunate) use of such disciplines was from the Nazi regime in

Germany (Novella, 2000, para.19). Measurements made on subjects were “used to verify

pre-existing social prejudices”, and the Nazis used them to “prove Arian racial

superiority” (Novella, 2000, para.19). Van den Bossche (1998b, para.6) admits that this

fact has “given a very bad name to the science”. Novella (2000, para.19) cites that the

use of the theories by the Nazis was a reason such “pseudosciences” were abandoned.

       In conclusion, although phrenology is not employed currently in the field of

criminology, its link to how criminological thought processes developed is evident. It is

certainly a historical part of the biological, or pathological, view on criminal behavior. In

the opinion of this author, phrenology marks the beginning of the biological model. That

model, as Stephen Pfohl (1994: 143) states, “is still very much alive” in spite of “its long

legacy of failure”. When reviewing abstracts from articles in the American Society of

Criminology, Criminal Justice Abstracts, and the Social Sciences Citation Index, it is

clear Pfohl is correct – many researchers and theorists are postulating still that deviant

behavior can be linked to specific biological causes. Even if not in use today, and even

though it has been soundly discounted in the time following its inception, phrenology

should be regarded as a significant step in how criminals and their behavior are now


Allen, Randy. (1998, Nov). Phrenology considered. [WWW document]. URL

Benedikt, Moriz. (1881). Anatomical studies upon brains of criminals. New York:
Dacapo Press. Reprinted 1981

Bridges, Jason. (1997, December 29). The early phrenology: Gall and its
beginnings. [WWW document]. URL

Combe, George. (1834). Elements of phrenology. [Online Book] URL

Gall, Franz. (1798). Letter from Dr. F.J. Gall to Joseph von Retzer, upon the
functions of the brain in man and animals. [Electronic version]. Der neue Teutsche
Merkur, Vol. 3, Dec 1798, pg 311-332. URL

Franz, Shepherd. (1912). New phrenology. [Electronic version]. Science, N.S. 35,
No. 896, pgs. 321-328. URL http://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Franz/phrenology.htm

Novella, Steven. (n.d./2000). Phrenology: history of pseudoscience. [Online
Periodical]. The New England Journal of Skepticism, Vol. 3, Iss. 2. URL

Pfohl, Stephen. (1994). Images of deviance and social control: A sociological history
(2nd ed). New York: McGraw Hill

Reid, Sue. (1994). Crime and criminology (7th ed). Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace
College Publishers

Sabbatini, Renato. (n.d./1997a). Phrenology: the history of brain localization.
[WWW document]. URL http://www.epub.org.br/cm/n01/frenolog/frenologia.htm

Sabbatini, Renato. (n.d./1997b). Why Gall was right and wrong. [WWW
document]. URL http://www.epub.org.br/cm/n01/frenolog.frenwhy.htm

Sabbatini, Renato. (n.d./1997c). Phrenology as quackery. [WWW document]. URL

Sabbatini, Renato. (n.d./1997d). Modern phrenology. [WWW document]. URL
Schlag, Pierre. (n.d./1997). Commentary: law and phrenology. [Online Periodical].
110 Harvard Law Review 877. URL

Van den Bossche, Peter. (1998a, May 1). The loose foundations of criticism against
phrenology. [WWW document]. URL

Van den Bossche, Peter. (1998b, May 1). Phrenology in the 20th century. [WWW
document]. URL

Van Wyhe, John. (2002a, May 30). The authority of human nature: the Schadellehre
of Franz Joseph Gall. [Electronic version]. British Journal for the History of
Science, 2002, pgs. 17-42. URL

Van Wyhe, John. (2002b, May 30). The history of phrenology on the web. [WWW
document]. URL http://pages.britishlibrary.net/phrenology/overview.htm

Vukin, Matthew. (1999, April 22). Phrenology in america. [WWW document].
URL http://clearinghouse.mwsc.edu/manuscripts/83.asp

Williams, W. Mattieu. (1894). A vindication of phrenology. [Electronic Version]
URL http://pages.britishlibrary.net/phrenology/other_texts/williams.txt

Wozniak, Robert. (1996, September 3). Mind and body: Rene Descartes to William
James. [WWW document]. URL http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/mind/

Young, Robert. (1990). Mind, brain, and adaptation in the 19th century: cerebral
localization and its biological context from Gall to Ferrier. [Online Book]. URL

To top