Cast of a microcephalic head, Europe, 1831-1900
Microcephaly is a medical condition where the circumference of the head is small because the brain has not developed properly or has stopped growing. The condition is present at birth or develops within a few years. There is no treatment available and the effects on mental development can be severe. This plaster cast was owned by the British Phrenological Society (BPS). Founded in 1866, the Society discussed different systems of phrenology – the once popular practice of reading the shape of the skull and underlying brain to determine a person’s personality. The BPS was disbanded in 1967.
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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.