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

Discussion of T. S. Prideaux's 'The Occasional
Definition of the Convolutions of the Brain
on the Exterior of the Head' (S151: 1869)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Discussion of a paper presented at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meetings in late August 1869, including some remarks by its author. Reported in the Anthropological Review issue of October 1869. Original pagination indicated within double brackets. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S151.htm

     [[p. 430]]. . . Mr. Prideaux said that was just what the phrenologists had been asking the anti-phrenologists to show them for years. It was for the anti-phrenologists to produce those proofs. He would take upon himself to say that it was an invariable fact that a great power for music would be accompanied by the conformation of skull which he now pointed out.

     The Chairman [[Prof. Busk]] said in this particular instance the man Mr. Prideaux spoke of seemed to have been amongst phrenologists, and they had not discovered his musical powers.

     Mr. Prideaux said that was because the people who pretended to a knowledge of phrenology were often not capable of distinguishing such cases.

     Mr. Wallace complained that only one instance had been brought before them. They ought not to be asked to accept such a theory except on the production of an overwhelming mass of facts. If the crania of two hundred or three hundred musicians could be brought before them, all showing the development of that one part of the skull, then there would be some force in the argument; but to bring a solitary case, and say there were others, was merely a waste of time.

     Mr. Prideaux, in reply to various other questions, said that he could not tell how the brain performed its functions with regard to musical pitch. It could only, of course, be a matter of analysis, and in every great musician ever known, that part of the forehead had been very large. The theory of music was founded on the musical pitch, or the number of vibrations in a second, and in some way the organ of music, or that part of the brain, took cognisance of the number of those vibrations, just as the organ of colour [[p. 431]] would take cognisance of the number of vibrations in the rays of light. He would venture to say that he could at once detect, in a number of strangers, those who would be likely to sing in tune. He was himself deficient in that faculty, but had an extraordinary memory for voices, and could recognise any one he knew by hearing him utter two syllables.

     Mr. Wallace: How do you distinguish between that faculty and that which gives the power of a musician?

     Mr. Prideaux said by the peculiar intonation of the voice. He did not know whether physicists had as yet defined mathematically what produced an agreeable voice or otherwise, but phrenologists could, by the shape of the head, tell what sort of a voice a man had. A man with a low head never had a rich voice. There was, too, a deep ringing voice given by the presence of what the phrenologists called destructiveness, which in some actors lent great force to their outbursts of rage. As to bringing a great number of examples, that had been done by Gall years ago. Phrenologists had filled the museums with casts and examples, and he only wanted men of science to turn their attention to the subject, and to bring facts in opposition. The onus rested with their opponents to disprove the position taken by phrenologists. . . .

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