Popular Science Monthly/Volume 14/February 1879/The Old Phrenology and the New
|THE OLD PHRENOLOGY AND THE NEW.|
THERE has ever lain a strange fascination, for culture and ignorance alike, in the attempt to diagnose the intellect and character of man from the outward manifestations of his face and skull. The problem of character and its interpretation is as old as Plato, and may probably be shown to be more ancient still. Egyptian soothsayers and Babylonian astrologers were hardly likely to have omitted the indexing of character as a profitable and at the same time legitimate exercise of their art. The forecasting of future events and the casting of nativities were studies likely enough to bear a friendly relationship to the determination of character from face, from fingers, or from skull and brain itself. But the histories of palmistry and soothsaying, with that of physiognomy, are they not all writ in the encyclopædias? We shall not occupy space with an historical résumé of the efforts of philosophy in swaddling-clothes attempting to wrestle with the great problem of mind and matter; nor shall we at present venture to oppose a scientific denial to Shakespeare's dictum that
To find the mind's construction in the face.
Darwin's "Expression of the Emotions," the development of facial contortions, and the interesting study of the genesis of smiles and tears, and of the thousand and one signs which make up the visible and emotional life of humanity, may form a subject for treatment hereafter. Our present study concerns the deeper but not less interesting problem of the indexing of mind, and of the relations of brain-conformation and brain-structure to character and disposition. If there exists no art "to find the mind's construction in the face," Lavater notwithstanding, may we discover "the mind's construction in the skull"? If the old phrenology, or the science of brain-pans, be regarded as practically obsolete among physiologists and scientific men at large, what hopes of successfully estimating the "coinage of the brain" may the new phrenology be said to hold out? To this interesting question, then, let us ask the reader's attention for a brief period. We may premise that, if the march in ways phrenological be somewhat bellicose, our journey shall not be wanting in those mental elements which make for instruction in a field largely peopled with human hopes and fears.
The professions of phrenology are not by any means so correctly appreciated as might be thought, considering how well known is the name of the science, and how popular were its tenets within, comparatively speaking, a few years back. Although the name "phrenology" is but an echo in the scientific class-rooms, its professors still flourish, mostly in obscure localities in large towns, and often present themselves as modern representatives of the Peripatetici, in that they wander from town to town as traveling philosophers who usually unite a little electrobiology to their phrenological talents, and throw in an occasional mesmeric séance by way of offset to the more serious business of the interpretation of character. There are, it is true, phrenological societies and museums in several of our cities. The latter are chiefly remarkable for the varied collection of murderers' effigies and for the extensive assortment of casts of cranial abnormalities; the exact relationship of these contorted images to phrenological science being rarely if ever made clear to the visitor on the search for knowledge. Now and then in opticians' windows one sees a wondrous china head whose cubic capacity is mapped off into square inches, half inches and quarters, of veneration, ideality, comparison, benevolence, and many other qualities of mind. The contemplation of such a work of art excites within the mind of the ingenious observer an idea of the literal awfulness of a science which dispenses destructiveness by the inch, and which maps out the bounds of our amativeness by the rule of three; while the profundity of its professors may by such a mind be compared only to that of Butler's savant who
A hair, 'twixt south and southwest side.
Nor would the admiration of the ingenuous one be lessened were he to enter the sanctum of the "professor" of phrenology, and submit his cranium to the ocular inspection and digital manipulation of the oracle. The very furnishings of the apartment are mystic, and impress or overawe the inquiring mind. Pope's dictum concerning "the proper study of mankind" embellishes the walls; and the advice "know thyself," meant to be interpreted and taken in a phrenological sense, is given gratis through the medium of a conspicuous and usually illustrated poster. The tattooed head of a New-Zealander; a few skulls, occasionally supplemented by a collection of stuffed lizards and other reptilian curiosities, and invariably flanked by busts of the ancient philosophers, complete the æsthetic furnishings of the modern temple of the delineator of character. To the proprietor, in due time, enters a certain moiety of the British public in search of knowledge. And thence issue the patients, each provided for a consideration with a wondrous chart of their mental disposition, wherein the moral quicksands are presumed to be duly marked, and the obliquities of character stamped, with a view toward future correction and improvement.
How does the phrenological professor succeed very fairly in reading character? may be asked at the outset by readers who have had those parts of their disposition best known to themselves delineated with accuracy by the oracle. The reply is clear. Not through manipulating those mysterious "bumps," nor through any occult knowledge of the brains of his votaries, but simply from a shrewd talent for scanning the personal appearance and physiognomy of his clients, and by the dexterous suggestion of queries bearing on those traits of character which the features and manner reveal. Your successful phrenologist is in truth a shrewd physiognomist. His guide to character is in reality the face, not the brain-pan. The dress, manners, and deportment of his clients, and not the gray matter of the cerebrum, form the real basis of his observations. If any one may be found to doubt how accurately one's character may be mapped out from its outward manifestations, let him endeavor to study for a while the acts and deportment of those with whose "mind's construction" he may be even slightly acquainted, and he will speedily discover numerous clews to the mental disposition in common acts and traits which previously had passed utterly unnoticed. Such a result accrues speedily to the professed physiognomist and shrewd observer of men, who, passing his fellows in professional review before him, speedily discovers types of character to which, with allowance for special proclivities or traits, his various clients may be referred. That character may with tolerable success be determined even from handwriting is a well-known fact; and it is difficult to see the superiority of the pretensions and claims of phrenology as a guide to character over those of the professor of calligraphic philosophy. One of the most convincing illustrations that even a practical knowledge of brain structure is not necessary for the successful delineation of such superficial traits of character as can alone be determined by the casual observer, may be found in the fact that very few "professors" of phrenology have ever studied the brain, while a large proportion may never have seen an actual brain. A notable example of a successful practice of phrenology being carried on independently of any knowledge whatever of the brain, is known to the writer, in the case of a worthy police-sergeant, who attained tolerable accuracy in the art of reading "the mind's construction," but who had never even seen a brain, and who had the faintest possible idea of the appearance of that organ. Unless, therefore, one may logically maintain that total ignorance of the brain-pan is compatible with an accurate understanding of its contents and mysteries, the successful practice of phrenology must be shown to depend on other data and other circumstances than are supplied by anatomy and physiology—these sciences admittedly supplying the foundation of all that is or can be known regarding the brain, its conformation, structure, and functions. Empirical science—science falsely so called—will not hesitate to assert its ability to accurately solve the deepest problems of character and mind. But the more modest spirit of the true scientist will hesitate before crediting itself with any such ability, or even before giving assent to such general rules of character as are exemplified by the saying, "Big head and little wit"; or by that of the worthy Fuller, who, in his "Holy and Profane State," remarks that "often the cockloft is empty in those whom Nature hath built many stories high."
The fundamental doctrine of the old phrenology is well known to most of us. Its great doctrine is pictorially illustrated in the china heads of the opticians' windows, and may be summed up in the statement that different parts or portions of the brain are the organs of different faculties of mind. The brain thus viewed is a storehouse of faculties and qualities, each faculty possessing a dominion and sphere of its own among the cerebral substance, and having its confines as rigidly defined as are the boundaries of certain actual provinces in the East, the status of which has afforded matter for serious comment of late among the nations at large. Thus, if phrenology be credited with materializing mind in the grossest possible fashion, its votaries have themselves and their science to thank for the aspersion. If it be maintained that feelings of destructiveness reside above the ear, then must we localize the desire to kill or destroy in so much brain-substance as lies included in the "bump" in question. When vainglory besets us, we must hold, if we are phrenologists, that there is a molecular stirrage and activity of brain-particles beneath a certain bump of "self-esteem" situated above and in front of the ear; while feelings of veneration, of hope, or of wonder, are each to be regarded as causing a defined play of action in particular bumps and special quarters of the brain. Were the deductions of phrenology true, or were its claims to be regarded as a science founded on definite grounds, mind could no longer be regarded as a mystery, since it would be within the power of the phrenologist to assert that, when swayed by emotions of one kind or another, he could declare which part of the brain was being affected. This declaration logically follows upon that which maintains the localization of faculties in different parts of the brain; but it is a conclusion at the same time from which Physiology simply retires in outspoken disdain, as presenting us with an empirical explanation of mysteries to which the furthest science has as yet failed to attain.
That we may duly understand, not merely the falsity of the old phrenology, but the bearings of the new aspects of brain-science as revealed by modern physiology, we must briefly glance at the general conformation of the brain. The organ of mind, contained within the skull, consists of the greater brain or cerebrum (Fig. 1, A A), and the lesser brain or cerebellum (B). The latter portion is situated at the
back of the head, and forms the hinder part of the brain; the spinal cord (C), which, as every one knows, runs through the spine (V V), being merely a continuation of the main axis of the nervous centers of which the brain is the chief. When the surface of the human brain is inspected, it is seen to present a very unequal appearance, due to the fact that its substance is thrown into a large number of folds or convolutions (see Fig. 1), as they are technically named by the anatomist. The brain, or cerebrum, is in reality a double organ, formed of two similar halves or hemispheres, which are separated by a deep central fissure, but which are also connected together below by a broad band of nervous matter known as the corpus callosum. It is this latter band which brings the halves of the brain into relation with one another, and which thus serves to produce identity and correlation of action between its various parts.
To the nature of the convolutions our especial attention must be directed. The brain-substance consists of gray and white nervous matter. The gray matter forms the outermost layer of the brain substance, and incloses the white; the opposite arrangement being seen, curiously enough, in the spinal cord. Now, one evident purpose of the convolutions of the brain is to largely increase the amount of its gray matter relatively to the space in which the organ of mind is contained; while the perfect nutrition of the brain is also thus provided for through its convoluted structure permitting a fuller distribution of the minute blood-vessels which supply the brain with the vital fluid. It is a very noteworthy fact that the structure of the gray matter differs materially from that of the white. In the gray matter nerve-cells are found in addition to nervous fibers, the former originating nervous force, while the latter are simply capable of conveying this subtile force. Thus it may be said that it is in the gray matter that thought is chiefly evolved, and from this layer that purposive actions spring. The white matter, on the other hand, merely conveys nerve-force and nervous impressions, and is thus physiologically inferior in its nature to the gray substance. The observations of Gratiolet, Marshall, and Wagner seem to leave no room for doubt that the convolutions of the brain increase with culture, and are therefore more numerous and deeper in civilized than in savage races of men. It is curious, however, to observe that certain groups of quadrupeds are normally "smooth-brained," and possess few or no convolutions. Such are rats, mice, and the rodents or "gnawing" animals at large, and it can hardly be maintained that in those animals intelligence is normally low or instinct primitive—although, indeed, the just comparison of human with lower instincts must be founded on a broader basis than is presented by this single anatomical fact.
A final observation concerning the anatomy of the brain relates to its size and weight as connected with the intelligence. The phrenological doctrine of the disposition of the faculties must be held to include the idea that the larger the brain, the better specialized should be the mental qualities of the individual; the greater the amount of brain-substance forming the good and bad qualities and regions of the phrenologist, the more active should be the mental organization. Now, it is a patent fact that this rule tells strongly against the phrenologist's assumption. True, various great men have had large brains; but cases of great men possessing small brains are equally common, as also are instances where insanity and idiocy were associated with brains of large size. The normal average human male brain weighs from 49 to 50 ounces; man's brain being ten per cent, heavier than that of woman. Cuvier's brain weighed 642 ounces; that of Dr. Abercrombie 63 ounces; that of Spurzheim, of phrenological fame, 55 ounces; Professor Goodsir's brain attained a weight of 572 ounces; Sir J. Y. Simpson's weighed 54 ounces; that of Agassiz 53·4 ounces; and that of Dr. Chalmers 53 ounces. As instances of high brain-weights, without corresponding intellectual endowment, may be mentioned four brains weighed by Peacock, the weights of which varied from 67·5 to 61 ounces. Several insane persons have had brains of 642 ounces, 63 ounces, 61 ounces, and 60 ounces, as related by Bucknill, Thurnam, and others. With respect to the brain-weights of the fair sex, anatomical authority asserts that in women with brains weighing 55·25 ounces and 50 ounces, no marked intellectual features were noted. Below 30 ounces, the human brain becomes idiotic in character, so that there appears to exist a minimum weight, below which rational mental action is unknown. The anatomist's conclusions regarding brain capacity and mental endowments are therefore plain. He maintains that the size and weight of the organ do not of themselves afford any reliable grounds for an estimate of the mental endowments, while his researches also prove that a large brain and high intellectual powers are not necessarily or invariably associated together.
The foregoing details will be found to assist us in our criticism of the pretensions of the old phrenology as a basis for estimating "the mind's construction" and the mental habits of man. Primarily, let us inquire if development—that great criterion of the nature of living structure—lends any countenance to the idea that the brain is a collection of organs such as the phrenologist asserts it to be. The brain of man, like that of all other backboned animals, appears to begin its history in a certain delicate streak or furrow which is developed on the surface of the matter of the germ. Within this furrow the brain and spinal cord are at first represented by an elongated strip of nervous matter, which strip, as the furrow closes to form a tube, also becomes tubular, and incloses within it, as the hollow of the tube, the little canal which persists in the center of the spinal cord. The front part of this nervous tube, which soon exhibits a division into gray and white matter, now begins to expand so as to form three swellings named vesicles. From these vesicles the brain and its parts are formed. The foremost swelling soon produces the parts known as the optic lobes, and also the structures which are destined to form the hemispheres or halves of the brain itself. The middle swelling contributes to the formation of certain important structures of the brain; and finally the cerebellum or lesser brain, along with the upper part of the spinal cord and other structures, appear as the result of the full development of the hinder or third swelling. Nor must we neglect to note that at first the human brain is completely smooth and destitute of convolutions, and only acquires its convoluted appearance toward the completion of development.
It is now an appropriate duty to inquire if the history of the brain's growth affords any countenance or support to the phrenological division of the organ into some thirty-five different organs and seats of faculties. The query is further a perfectly legitimate one. The phrenologist maintains the actuality of his deductions respecting the "organs" of mind, and it is only a fair and just expectation that, if the brain be a congeries of such organs, the anatomist should be able to see these parts as development has revealed them. The nature of the brain is asserted by the phrenologist to exist in its composition as a set of organs. That nature, argues the anatomist, if revealed at all, should present itself in its development, which alone can show us nature's true fashion of building a brain. What, therefore, is the result of the anatomist's study of the manner in which the brain is fashioned? The answer is found in the statement that there is not a trace of a single "organ" such as the phrenologist theoretically maintains is represented in the brain. There is no division into separate parts and portions, as the phrenologist's chart would lead the observer to suppose. The scalpel of the anatomist can nowhere discover in the full-grown brain an organ of veneration, or of hope, or of language, or of destructiveness, or of any other mental feature: nor can his microscope detect in nature's wondrous process of fashioning the brain any reason for the belief that the organ of mind is a collection of parts each devoted to the exercise of a special quality of mind. The arrangement which appears so clear on the phrenologist's bust is nowhere represented in the brain itself. And the organs of the phrenologist, in so far as their existence is concerned, may not inaptly be described in Butler's words as being
That's to be let unfurnished.
But if development gives no support to the phrenological assertion of the brain's division into organs of the mind, neither does anatomy, human and comparative, countenance its tenets as applied to the examination of the brain-pan itself. To select a very plain method of testing the deductions of phrenology, let an anatomical plate of the upper surface of the undisturbed brain be exhibited, and, having settled the position of certain "organs" from a phrenological chart, let any one try to discover if the limits of any one organ can be discerned on the brain-surface. He will then clearly appreciate the hopeless nature of the task he has undertaken, and be ready to shrink from the attempt to resolve the complex convolutions before him into a square inch here of one faculty, or a square inch there of another. Moreover, one very important consideration will dawn upon the reflective mind which considers that the convolutions of the brain are not limited to the crown and sides of the head, but, on the contrary, extend over the entire surface of the cerebrum, and are developed on its base (see Fig. 2). No phrenologist has attempted, it is true, to get at the base of the brain by inspecting the palate; but it would be regarded as an absurd and unwarrantable statement to assert that the base of the brain has no functions, and that the mind of man is located only at the top and on the sides of the head. Yet the phrenologist is in the position of one making such an assertion, since his science takes no account of the base or internal parts of the brain—situations, forsooth, in which anatomy and the newer phrenology demonstrate the existence of very important sensory and other organs. The question of the relatively immense
tracts of brain which lie without the utmost ken of phrenology, even on its own showing, is also illustrated by the observation that the bulging or hollowing of the skull at any point affords no criterion of the thickness of the gray matter of the brain, a layer which we have already seen to constitute the most important part of the brain-substance. This gray matter is seen to exist in tolerable uniformity over large tracts of brain-substance, and it is invariably in the hinder region of the brain that it attains its greatest complexity and development. The form of the skull is dependent on the amount and disposition of the white matter, and not on that of the gray; and the former, as we have seen, has but a minor influence or part in the mental constitution, since its function is merely that of conducting and not of originating thoughts and impressions. Since, then, phrenology lays so much stress on skull-conformation as a clew to brain-structure, it must be regarded as dealing rather with the results of the disposition of the white matter than with that of the gray—and this latter assumption of necessity involves a second, namely, that phrenology has no status as a science of mind at all.
There is one consideration concerning the practical application of the phrenologist's assertions too important to be over-looted, namely, the difficulty of detecting or of mapping out on the living head the various "bumps" or organs of mind which appear to be so lucidly localized on the bust or chart. The observer, who might naturally think the determination of the "bumps" an easy matter, has but to try to reconcile with a phrenological chart, or with the brain-surface itself (Fig. 1), the configuration of a friend's cranium, and he will then discover the impossibility of distinguishing where one faculty or organ ends and where another begins. How, for instance, can the exact limits of the four or five organs of mind, to be hereafter alluded to more specifically, which are supposed to exist in the line of the eyebrow, be determined? What is the criterion of excessive or inferior development here, and how may we know when one "encroaches" upon another to the exclusion or atrophy of the latter? The practical application of phrenology indeed constitutes one of its difficulties; and added to the difficulty or impossibility of accurately mapping out the boundaries of the phrenologist's organs, we must take into account the fact that we are expected to detail these organs through, in any case, a considerable thickness of scalp, which veils and occludes, as every anatomist knows, the intimate conformation of the skull-cap. At the most the phrenologist may distinguish regions; his exact examination of the living head à la phrenological chart or bust is an anatomical impossibility.
But the anatomist has also something of importance to say regarding the actual existence of certain of the "organs" of mind mapped out by the phrenologist. Leaning trustfully upon their empirical deductions, the phrenologists have frequently localized faculties and organs of mind upon bony surfaces separated from the brain by an intervening space of considerable kind. In so far as comparative anatomy is concerned, phrenology receives no assistance in its attempt to localize mind-functions in man. An elephant is admittedly a sagacious animal, with a brain worth studying; just as a cat or tiger presents us with a disposition in which, if brain-science is applicable, as it should be, to lower forms of life exhibiting special traits of character, destructiveness should be well represented and typically illustrated. Alas for phrenology! the bump of destructiveness in the feline races resolves itself into a mass of jaw-muscles, and the elephant's brain is placed certainly not within a foot or so of the most skillful of phrenological digits. The "frontal sinuses" or great air-spaces in the forehead bones of the animal intervene between the front of the brain, the region par excellence of intellect according to phrenology, and the outside layer of the skull. So that an observer could no more accurately construct a phrenological chart of an elephant than he could diagnose the contents of a warehouse by scanning the exterior of the building.
Not merely, however, are the difficulties of phrenology limited to the lower animals. Suppose we make a cross-section of a human skull through either the right or left side of the forehead, about half an inch above the upper border of the orbit or eye cavity. We may then discover that man as well as the elephant possesses "frontal sinuses" or air-spaces in his forehead-bone of considerable extent intervening between the exterior of the skull and the contained brain. Now, in such a section of the human skull, what phrenological "organs" shall we cut through? Certainly those of "individuality," "form," "size," and "color." In placing such organs across the eyebrows, the phrenologist might naturally be regarded as having proceeded on the assumption that he was mapping out on the exterior of the skull a certain part of the brain-surface. What shall be said of his procedure, however, when the reader learns that a section of the skull made as indicated through these organs shows that they—i. e., the "organs" as marked on the outside of the skull—overlie the hollow spaces or "frontal sinuses," and are actually separated from the brain by cavities of considerable extent, in some cases exceeding an inch? Such a demonstration truly speaks for itself, and no less so does the anatomist's discovery that the "organ" of phrenologists known as "form" actually reposes in anything but a noble position on the cavity of the nose; that the organ of "calculation" is a solid bony (orbital) process; and that the size of the organ of "language" really depends upon the want of forward projection of the eye depending on the special development of a bony process on which the organ of sight rests, and which in any case has nothing whatever to do with the brain. Of language more anon; but enough has been said to show that a connection with the brain is not an invariable or apparently necessary condition for the construction of a phrenological "organ" of the mind—the fact that the brain is the organ of mind notwithstanding.
But neither does the case for phrenology fare any better when it is tested by the results of the examination of crania belonging to persons whose family or personal history was well known, and whose characters, in respect of their thorough and stable formation, would therefore serve as a test of phrenological or any other system of mind-explanation. In the heyday of phrenological discussion, and in Edinburgh as the very focus and center of the arguments pro and con the system of Gall and Spurzheim, a Mr. Stone, then President of the Royal Medical Society, read in 1829 a paper in which the results of a most laborious and conscientious series of observations on the crania of well-known persons were detailed. These results, as will presently be shown, were fatal to any ideas which might have been entertained regarding the authentic nature of the data on which phrenological observations were founded. Fifty skulls were selected for measurement from the famous collection of Sir William Hamilton, fifty others being taken from that of Dr. Spurzheim himself. In the case of the skulls of fifteen murderers, whose crimes had been marked by unusual brutality and violence, and who might therefore be regarded as exemplifying cases in which the largeness of the "organ" of destructiveness might be lawfully postulated by a phrenologist, Mr. Stone demonstrated by careful measurement and comparison that each of the fifteen had the organ or surface of "destructiveness" absolutely less than the average of ordinary heads, while thirteen of these skulls possessed this organ relatively less when compared with the whole contents of the brain-pan. Nor was this all. Thirteen of these fifteen worthies possessed a larger organ of "benevolence" than the average, and their "conscientiousness" was also as a rule well developed. Their brains were not markedly deficient in front of the ear—the region of the intellectual faculties, according to the phrenologist—nor were they unusually developed behind the ear, where the animal faculties are supposed to reside.
No less instructive were the comparisons instituted between the faculties of Dr. David Gregory, once Professor of Mathematics in the University of Edinburgh, and Savilian Professor of Astronomy at Oxford, a friend and contemporary of Sir Isaac Newton. Professor Gregory's character was well known as that of an amiable, accomplished, intellectual man. In such a case the moral faculties would be expected to present high development, while the animal faculties and baser qualities would naturally be regarded as being but poorly represented. Mr. Stone's measurements, duly verified by independent observers, elicited the awkward fact that Dr. Gregory should, according to the phrenological interpretation of his cranium, have ranked in the criminal category, since his organ of "destructiveness" was found to exceed in size that of every murderer in the collection under discussion! In proportion to the general size and form of the brain. Dr. Gregory's "destructiveness" was larger than that of the notorious Burke, who was executed at Edinburgh for the cold-blooded murder of men, women, and children, whose bodies, along with his coadjutor Hare, he sold for purposes of anatomical inspection. Not to enumerate in detail the startling results which the fair and unbiased examination of Dr. Gregory's cranium afforded, it may simply be mentioned that the Professor's "combativeness" was larger than that of any of the debased villains with whom his faculties were compared. Burke equaled him in "benevolence"; in "secretiveness" he excelled the noteworthy fifteen; his "acquisitiveness" exceeded that of Haggart and other noted thieves; his "causality"—the power of reasoning closely, and of tracing the relations between cause and effect, a faculty which as a mathematician he should have possessed largely developed—was less than that of the criminals; and his intellectual faculties at large were of less capacity than theirs, as his animal faculties were present in greater force.
No further illustration is required of the fact that, tested under exceptionally favorable circumstances, the deductions of phrenology are absolutely incorrect, not to say absurd. Nor is the case of the phrenologists bettered by their exercise of apologetics in face of the hard logic of the above and similar facts. Thurtell, with very large "benevolence" and with well-developed "veneration," yet committed an atrocious murder, and this without a special development of "destructiveness." "Nothing can justify the murder," said the phrenologists, but Thurtell imagined that he would "do a service to society by killing his friend" (where his benevolence?) "and hence his crime." Thus benevolence, by the exercise of phrenological apologetics, becomes an excuse for and an active cause of murder. Dr. Gregory's "destructiveness," said the phrenologists, was held in check by some other qualities—by which qualities it would be hard to say, seeing that, tested by phrenology, his whole mental and moral organization was below that of the average murderer. So that we are to believe, in short, that "destructiveness," and the other base qualities of the Professor, being absolutely useless, must have been intended simply for show and not for use. Things, on this reasoning, truly are not what they seem; and phrenology thuswise cuts away from under itself its fundamental propositions, that its "organs" are the seats of faculties, and that their activity is proportional to their size.
But to proceed further would be to slay the slain. Thus much indeed we have said of the phrenology which still lingers in our midst, by way of contrast with the newer order of brain-interpretation which the advance of physiology has caused to arise among us. In the early days in which the battle of phrenology was fought and won as against the science of brain-pans, physiological experimentation upon the brain was an unknown and unworked source of information. In due time came Flourens, Magendie, Fritsch, Hitzig, and Ferrier, with their exact methods and results, enlarging the conceptions of the brain and its powers, and throwing here and there a ray of light upon the dark places and hidden corners in the domain of the physiology of mind. Hence our new "phrenology"—for the word itself is perfectly explicit as denoting a science of mind or brain—is gradually being built up from sure data and accurate experimentation, the results arrived at by one worker being tested by a host of fellow-experimenters ere his inferences become facts, and before they are allowed to form part and parcel of the scientific edifice. Let us briefly see what are the more prominent facts concerning the brain and its functions which recent science has elucidated.
No part of the brain has perhaps presented problems of such interesting character as the cerebellum or lesser brain which, as already remarked, exists at the hinder and lower part of the head, and which moreover presents us with a structure differing from that of the cerebrum itself. Phrenologists located in the cerebellum the purely animal faculties. "A man," as we remember hearing a phrenological lecturer say, "with a head bulging out behind, is going backward in the world"; and there was indeed, as we shall see, a modicum of truth (although he knew and understood it not) in the lecturer's remark, since without the cerebellum we could in reality proceed neither forward nor backward. We now know that the old phrenology of the cerebellum is utterly wrong and unfounded. The new phrenology has shown us that in cases of diseased animal appetites, which in our lunatic asylums are but too frequently represented, the cerebellum is not found to be affected—a result explained by the fact that the appetites referred to are indeed as much part of our "mental" constitution as is the exercise of benevolence or of any other mental faculty. Furthermore, the new phrenology supplies positive evidence as to the true functions of the cerebellum. When it is removed from a pigeon, for instance, the animal retains its faculties, it will feed, it can see and hear, but is utterly unable to maintain its equilibrium. If thrown into the air, it flaps its wings in an erratic and aimless fashion. In one word, it can not "coordinate" its movements, that is, it can not so adjust the motions of one set of muscles as to bring them into purposive harmony with another set or series. The cerebellum thus appears to be the great brain center whence are issued the commands and directions which guide the muscular actions and movements of our lives. Contrariwise, the true functions of the cerebellum are proved by experiments in which this part of the brain has been left intact while the cerebrum or true brain has been removed—an operation absolutely painless, as will presently be more particularly mentioned. A bird or higher animal in such a case will lose all power of volition; it will be deprived of sight, hearing, and other senses; it will die of hunger unless fed; it will exhibit no desire to move; and will in short present a condition utterly opposed to that seen when the cerebellum is removed and the true brain left intact. But with its cerebellum present, and minus its true brain, the bird can perfectly "coördinate" its movements. It will fly straight if thrown into the air, it will walk circumspectly enough if pushed forward, and will exhibit in fact such perfect muscular control, despite its want of volition and intellect, that the functions of the cerebellum as a controller of movements are no longer matter of hypothesis, but have become stable physiological fact.
If, however, the old phrenology has been displaced from the cerebellum by the new, no less important is it to note that, regarding the functions of the true brain, modern research has been equally successful in deposing the old ideas of the "organs" and their attendant faculties as exhibited on the phrenological charts and busts. Experimentation on the brain of higher animals, quoad the brain itself, is absolutely painless—contrary to popular notions and ideas. True, there are certain parts of the brain which are exceedingly delicate, and in which the point of a needle would inflict at once a fatal injury. But the brain-substance itself is utterly non-sensitive, as every hospital-surgeon can tell us. Persons may actually recover from serious injuries of the brain in which several ounces of brain-substance may have been lost, and recover with good effect, and in many cases without any perceptible alteration of their mental peculiarity. The most notorious case of this kind is known as "the American crow-bar case." A bar of iron accidentally shot off from a blast passed through the top of a young man's head at the left side of the forehead, having traversed the front part of the left hemisphere or side of the brain. The iron bar measured three feet in length, and weighed fourteen pounds. After the accident he felt no pain, and was able to walk without help in a few hours' time. The man made a good recovery, and for twelve years made a livelihood by exhibiting himself in the United States, his skull being now preserved in the museum of Harvard University. This patient undoubtedly lost a relatively large portion of his brain-substance. At one fell swoop there must have been a considerable destruction of phrenological organs. Yet he suffered from no deprivation of intelligence; and few would dream of associating the drinking habits which finally beset him with his accident and with his loss of brains, or otherwise maintain that he was less rational before than after the accident. Thus the misfortunes of existence and the experimentation of the physiologist positively contradict the old phrenology, and assert that localization of function does exist, it is true, but that the "organs" of the phrenologist are mere theoretical nonentities, without a trace of substance to insure their stability or real nature.
What amount of localization, then, can be safely assumed to exist in the human brain as revealed by recent experimentation? It may be known to the generality of readers that the movements, acts, and probably ideas relating to one side of the body are regulated by the opposite side or hemisphere of the brain. Thus, convulsions affecting one side of the body were shown by Dr. Hughlings Jackson to be caused by disease of the opposite side, and the idea of the duality of the brain's action followed in a natural sequence on the observation of facts like the preceding. Thus, as a general rule, it may be affirmed that brain-disease itself, or the ideas of natural existence, are so far localized that their perfect effects are only visible and appreciated when the same parts in both halves or hemispheres of the brain are affected. To illustrate what the new phrenology has to say regarding the localization of the brain-functions, let us inquire what is known regarding the exceedingly curious condition known as "aphasia." Persons affected with this lesion understand perfectly what is said to them, but they are absolutely speechless, and can not utter a single word. Now, it is a perfectly well-ascertained fact that aphasia is associated with disease of the front part of the left half or hemisphere of the brain—a part which may therefore be called the "speech-center." The curious fact must thus be emphasized that aphasia is invariably associated with disease of the left, and never with disease of the right side of the brain. To the brief explanation of this curious fact we shall presently return; but we may in conclusion remark certain facts now known respecting the localization of other functions. Professor Ferrier, of King's College, London, employing electricity as the only agent and means of stimulation to which the non-sensitive brain will respond, has succeeded in mapping out in the brains of higher animals the centers which govern many of the common movements of life, and which from reasonable analogy may be presumed to be represented in the human brain as well. As these acts are the practical outcome of ideas, the parts of the brain concerned in the production of definite ideas may thus be regarded as being in one sense mapped out and recognized; although it is hardly necessary to remark that the regions of Dr. Ferrier in no wise correspond to those of the old phrenology, while in many cases, indeed, they are utterly opposed to it. Thus the sense of touch is found to be localized in the inner surface of the hemispheres of the brain, and this fact alone tells against the phrenologist, to whom the mere brain-surface is the brain itself.
Thus the work of localizing movements and important centers of the senses has so far proceeded with success. There yet remains for observation the curious case of aphasia or speechlessness, and its location in a "speech-center" or "speech-organ" in the front of the left hemisphere of the brain. It is a noteworthy fact in brain-physiology, that when an animal has been rendered blind by the destruction of the sight-center of one side, blindness disappears and sight gradually returns, since the remaining and normal sight-center of the opposite side assumes the functions of its neighbor. Complete blindness only ensues when both sight-centers are diseased. The same remark holds good of the movements of the mouth and tongue in speech, these being "bilateral," so that the center of these latter movements on one side may be destroyed without causing paralysis of the tongue, provided the center of the other side is uninjured. Movements of the hands and feet are, on the contrary, one-sided. Destruction of one center governing these latter movements insures complete cessation of the movements on the opposite side of the body. Now, in aphasia or speechlessness, we merely perceive the results of the destruction of the single speech center—the left—which man normally possesses. Just as we use the right hand in preference to the left in prehension and in writing, and as the movements of this hand are regulated by the left side of the brain, so our faculty of articulation is also unilateral and single-handed, so to speak. The memory of sounds and words forms the basis of our speech—"the memory of words is only the memory of certain articulations"—and those parts of the brain which regulate articulation are also the memory-centers for speech or the result of articulation. Thus, when the speech-center is disorganized, not merely the power of articulation disappears, but also the memory of words. But while the left side is that of the speech-center, there is no reason, as Dr. Ferrier remarks, apart from heredity and education, why this should necessarily be so. "It is quite conceivable," says this author, "that a person who has become aphasic by reason of total and permanent destruction of the left speech-center may reacquire the faculty of speech by education of the right articulatory centers." We speak with the left side of our brains, in short, not because we are unable to do so with the right side, but simply because habit and the law of likeness together strengthen and perpetuate the custom of speaking with the left. But it may be also supposed that, as a left-handed person must regulate the movements of his arms chiefly by the right side of his brain, so there may exist subjects who naturally use the right instead of the left speech-center.
Whatever results may in future accrue to human knowledge from researches into the functions of the brain, no one may doubt the all-important nature of the knowledge which literally enables man to know himself, and to understand in some degree the mainsprings of the actions which constitute his daily existence. The subject is also no less instructive in the sense in which it shows the displacement of erroneous ideas by new and higher thoughts founded on accurate observation of the facts of life; while in a very direct fashion such higher knowledge may affect suffering humanity, since an educated medical science, furnished with secure data regarding the causes of mental affections, may successfully "minister to minds diseased," and even in due time raze out the troubles which perplex many a weary soul.—Gentleman's Magazine.