‘A field for quacks to fatten in’: Phrenology in the British Isles

Hughes, William (2022) ‘A field for quacks to fatten in’: Phrenology in the British Isles. In: The dome of thought. Manchester University Press (MUP). ISBN 9781526143730

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.7765/9781526143730.00008


This chapter starts by reassessing the significance of the intellectual hostility expressed towards Franz Joseph Gall’s former assistant, Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, by the Edinburgh physician John Gordon. This opens the chapter up to the first substantial assessment of the content, significance and consequences of Spurzheim’s lecture tour, which began in London, took him across the English provinces and saw him also lecture on, and practically demonstrate, phrenology first in Ireland and latterly in Scotland. The chapter advances an unprecedented body of detail with regard to the content of the lectures delivered in London in particular, with substantial quotation from unreprinted contemporary accounts of these events. The significance and impact of Spurzheim’s later symposia is also discussed at length, with particular reference being made to his lectures in Bath and Bristol, and his tour of Irish venues which saw him speak in Dublin and Cork prior to a long tour of Scotland.

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