Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Comments on Phrenology (S133: 1867)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A third-person account of comments Wallace made at the 18 June 1867 meeting of the Anthropological Society of London on a paper by James Hunt entitled 'On Physio-anthropology, Its Aim and Method,' read two weeks earlier at the previous meeting of the Society. Printed in the Journal of the Anthropological Society of London later that year. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S133.htm


    [[p. cclvi]] Mr. Alfred R. Wallace expressed his dissent from that part of Dr. Hunt's paper which related to phrenology. He said that anthropologists had hitherto considered the mental faculties and physical peculiarities of mankind as isolated phenomena, and had not made any attempt to connect them; but phrenologists had done so, and had shown that certain peculiarities of the organisation of the brain had relation to the functions of the mind. If there be a connection between them it was to be traced, and they should endeavour to find it out. Many of the objectors to phrenology admitted that Dr. Gall commenced his inquiries in the right method to arrive at truth, and that he had made important discoveries; yet it was now asserted that there was not a particle of truth in the science. If that were so, it became the more important to take up the study of the brain, and to arrive at the truth. With the large collection of skulls now formed, and with materials to aid in the inquiry never before existing, it became the duty of that Society to see whether any relation does exist between separate portions of the brain and distinct mental faculties. He objected most strongly to Dr. Hunt's calling the statement of the phrenologists, that the brain is the organ [[p. cclvii]] of the mind, "a gigantic assumption." He might as truly say that to assume that the eye is the organ of vision was a gigantic assumption. The question was, has the brain anything to do with mental functions, and can we connect the peculiarities of mind with distinct parts of the brain? It was a great subject, and should be taken up by that Society on a large scale, so as to extend observation from individual cases to whole races of mankind, which the Society, with the aid of its many corresponding members in all parts of the world, were in a condition to do. What was wanted was the accurate determination both of the mental characteristics and the form of the skull of different races, and a systematic comparison of these data, so as to connect the one set of facts with the other. Individual cases made little impression on the public mind compared with the effect that would be produced by a comparison of the crania of different races with their known mental peculiarities.


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