[Adapted for the Victorian Web with the kind permission of the author from his extensive UK site on the History of Phrenology. — George P. Landow]

Phrenology: This term came into general use around 1819/1820 in Britain where it was coined by the physician T.I.M. Forster. It is derived from the Greek roots: phren: 'mind' and logos: 'study/discourse'. Gall himself never approved of the term phrenology. He called his system simply organology and Schädellehre and later simply 'the physiology of the brain'. The name phrenology really shows the far-reaching pretensions of the phrenologists to extend their authority over a greater area than just cerebral anatomy.

Craniology and cranioscopy: Additional, older terms for phrenology. Contrary to what is often alleged, these terms were not favoured or used by Gall, nor did they originally have different meanings besides phrenology. These two terms, and other variants (such as craniotome, craniognomy, or craniognosy), were used indiscriminately to refer to the doctrines of Gall and the phrenologists before the term phrenology was seized upon by Gall's former pupil, and the Saint Paul of phrenology, J.G. Spurzheim and the more pretentious British phrenologists. Beginning in the mid-1840s a new use for the term cranioscopy arose, meaning specifically the study of the size, shape, etc. of the skull, especially those of various 'races', as a part of an overtly scientific anthropology. This use was first made by the German physiologist and psychologist Carl Gustav Carus (1789-1869).

Physiognomy: The study of internal character from external appearances- most notably the face- was a partly aesthetic and partly philosophical practice which preceded phrenology (its roots lay as far back as the middle ages). Its main advocate in the late eighteenth century was the Swiss clergyman J. G. Lavater (1741-1801) in his Physiognomical Fragments(1775-8).

Faculty: phrenologists believed "the mind" was divided into a number of discrete departments, each specialized for certain tasks or tendencies, e.g. "the faculty of Benevolence means every mode of benevolent feeling induced by means of the organ of Benevolence." The cerebral organs and their faculties carried the same names- so the lists of organs provided at this site are also lists of mental faculties. Other faculty psychologies contained faculties like memory, reason, intellect and so on.

Organ: the "material instrument" by which a particular faculty was believed to operate. The size of an organ was the measure of its power or activity. The skull was said to take its shape from the underlying brain and hence, the larger or smaller an organ, the skull above it was expected to reflect this development. (Phrenologists pointed to cases of hydrocephalus, collection of water in the brain, in which the skull can become grotesquely distended while brain function may be unimpaired). The phrenological organs were mirrored in each hemisphere which is why some busts only have organs marked on one side. (i.e. there were two of each except Amativeness.)

Bumpology: is probably one of the best-known aspersions used to lampoon phrenology.

Pseudoscience: Historians of science no longer use this term as it is considered to be judgmental. It implies the application of a current conception of science, and proper scientific attributes, onto a historical phenomena. Such value judgments about the so-called virtues and vices of historical subjects are now seen as outside the actual scope of historians' project. Most historians of science today consider the use of this term as naive.

Last modified 2000