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Human skull, marked with phrenological divisions, United Kingdom, 1821-1899

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This human skull is marked into sections and was used for phrenological consultations. Phrenologists believed the shape and size of areas of the brain (and therefore the overlying skull) determined personality. Phrenology was popular with large numbers of people in the 1800s. There were over 200 phrenologists active in Britain in the first half of the century. However, it became controversial within the medical profession and was dismissed as unfounded. Despite this, the British Phrenological Society, who held this skull in its collections, did not disband until 1967.

Object number:

1999-398

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Glossary:

Glossary: human remains

term created as part of the NMSI human remains policy (from April 2007); Other terms used are 'blood' and 'human hair'

Glossary: skull

The skeleton of the head of a vertebrate animal, including the brain case, or cranium, and the bones and cartilages of the face and mouth. The skull can be subdivided into two parts: the cranium and the mandible. The human skull is made up from 22 bones.

Glossary: phrenology

The study of the bumps on the outside of the skull in order to determine a person's character. It was based on the mistaken theory that the skull becomes modified according to the size of different parts of the brain.