Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/162

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158
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
PHYSIOGNOMY AND GENIUS
By CHARLES KASSEL
FORT WORTH, TEXAS

SAYS Edwin Miller Wheelock in that great prose epic of evolution which he called Proteus:

Our humanity has been evolved out of the lower and coarser types of life and faces still hang out the signs of this experience in the vulture beak, the bull-dog visage, the swinish aspect. This face is a bear's muzzle; that a snout. This one is written over with a foulness that needs no label; here is a rat and there an abject thing cringing for leave to be. The old brutehood lurks in each cerebellum and the nobler faculties of man sleep in their shell.

Since the uprise of the theory of evolution with its emphasis upon the physical tokens of kinship between man and the animals, the old science of physiognomy, which formed a favorite study of the ancients, and to which the great Aristotle himself devoted six weighty chapters, has come forth from its hiding amidst the discarded superstitions of the past. The time-worn rules for determining character from countenance have gained a genuine interest for the scientific mind, and even the old saws and proverbs—crystallizations of mankind's observation of faces and features for unnumbered generations—have taken on a dignity and value which they could not else have borne.

It is to the criminologists, however, that we are indebted for the first distinct step toward a scientific study of physiognomy, and their labors give hint of the large results which might be possible to an investigation of wider scope. Thus, we are informed by Havelock Ellis, in his interesting and instructive work "The Criminal," that the receding forehead, prognathous jaw, and long, projecting and voluminous ears are in general characteristics of the criminal, while, according to Lombroso, the homicide may be known by his cold, fixed and glassy eye, beaked nose, prominent jaws and cheek bones, thin lips, and, not infrequently spasmodic contractions on one side of the face. "Among petty criminals, those who are criminals by weakness," says Ellis, "a type of receding chin is found," and he adds," the typical thief's nose is rectilinear, often incurved, short and twisted, with lifted base."

Deep-rooted as is the instinct for inferring character from countenance, it is not a little remarkable that the one ripe and ready field for the study of physiognomy has remained thus long unexplored. The pages of biography should afford rich spoil for the curious delver after hidden laws of mind and morals, and it seems that a tabulation of the faces and figures of eminent personages should long since have suggested itself as desirable, if not indispensable.