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How to Read Character: A New Illustrated Hand-Book of Phrenology and Physiognomy

Samuel R. Wells1869

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College

The Davis Museum at Wellesley College
Wellesley, United States

The pseudo-science of phrenology combined craniometry (the study of skulls through measurement) with theories of biological determinism (the belief that intelligence and moral capacity came from inborn traits determined by race, class, and sex) to compare and rank people according to levels of evolutionary superiority and inferiority. This hierarchy reinforced racist and sexist prejudices and justified the continued oppression of disadvantaged groups, especially Black people, American Indians, and women. Published in Samuel R. Wells's popular manual from 1869, How to Read Character, this diagram illustrates the location of various "faculties" for a popular readership. For instance, propensities for "destructiveness" were understood to be situated just above the ear, while one's capacity for language was supposedly revealed in the shape of the eye socket.

Details

  • Title: How to Read Character: A New Illustrated Hand-Book of Phrenology and Physiognomy
  • Creator: Samuel R. Wells
  • Date Created: 1869
  • Provenance: Loan to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Courtesy of Special Collections, Clapp Library, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
  • Original Source: Special Collections, Clapp Library, Wellesley College
  • Rights: Special Collections, Clapp Library, Wellesley College

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