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Wax copy of a phrenological head, Europe, 1839

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This human skull is marked into sections and was probably used for phrenological consultations. Phrenologists believed the shape and size of areas of the brain (and therefore the overlying skull) determined personality. Phrenological heads were used as reference guides during consultations. Phrenology was popular with large numbers of people in the 1800s. However, it became controversial within the medical profession and was dismissed as unfounded.

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Glossary: phrenology

The study of the bumps on the outside of the skull in order to determine a person's character. It was based on the mistaken theory that the skull becomes modified according to the size of different parts of the brain.

Glossary: phrenological head

A representation of a human head, on which the phrenological faculties are illustrated. Phrenologists believed that one could tell personality traits by examining the bumps of the skull. The practice is now regarded as a pseudo-science.