Pub. date: 2009 | Online Pub. Date: December 16, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963992 | Print ISBN: 9781412906784 | Online ISBN: 9781412963992 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Frequently characterized as a pseudoscientific fad in which a person's character was read from the shape of the head, during the second quarter of the nineteenth century, phrenology exercised a wide and important influence as a physiological theory of the mind with profound implications for the regulation of behavior. Aligned with liberal Christian values and Whig political ideals, it drew upon knowledge of the innate structure and development of the brain to justify social reforms that would perfect individuals and help engineer a rationally ordered state. Every atom of modern life came under the phrenologist's moral gaze: diet, the choice of a spouse, the organization of industrial labor, the reformation of the criminal, and the treatment of the insane had to be guided by the principles God purportedly used to fashion human nature. Most importantly, phrenologists sought to advance society through education. Champions of public schooling, they argued for developmentally ...