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Franz Joseph Gall

Franz Joseph Gall
Born 9 March 1758 (1758-03-09)
Baden
Died 22 August 1828 (1828-08-23)
Paris
Nationality Germany
Fields neuroanatomist
physiologist,
Influenced Cesare Lombroso
Alexandre Lacassagne

Franz Joseph Gall, M.D. (9 March 1758 – 22 August 1828) was a neuroanatomist, physiologist, and pioneer in the study of the localization of mental functions in the brain.

Gall was born in Baden, in the village of Tiefenbronn to a wealthy Roman Catholic wool merchant. The Galls had been the leading family in the area for over a century. As the second eldest son, he was intended for the priesthood but chose instead to study medicine at the University of Strasbourg. He later completed his degree in Vienna, Austria. Around 1800, he developed "cranioscopy", a method to determine the personality and development of mental and moral faculties on the basis of the external shape of the skull. Cranioscopy («cranium»: skull, «scopos»: vision) was later renamed to phrenologyphrenos»: mind, «logos»: study) by his follower Johann Spurzheim.

Gall's concepts on brain localization were revolutionary, and caused religious leaders and some scientists to take exception. The Roman Catholic Church considered his theory as contrary to religion (that the mind, created by God, should have a physical seat in brain matter was anathema). Established science also condemned these ideas for lack of scientific proof of his theory. His ideas were also not acceptable to the court of Franz Josef II (the brother of Marie Antoinette). Due to this opposition, Gall left his lecturer position in Austria. He sought a teaching position in Germany and eventually settled in Paris. Revolutionary France was most likely the most hospitable place for Gall's theories. However, Napoleon Bonaparte, the ruling emperor, and the scientific establishment led by the Institute of France, pronounced his science as invalid. Despite all this, Gall was able to secure a comfortable existence on the basis of his speciality. Gall became a celebrity of sorts as he was accepted into Parisian intellectual salons.

Gall's phrenological theories and practices were best accepted in England, where the ruling class used it to justify the "inferiority" of its colonial subjects. It also became very popular in the USA from 1820 to 1850. The misuse of Gall's ideas and work to justify discrimination were deliberately furthered by his associates, including Johann Spurzheim. Later, others tried to improve on his theories with systems such as characterology.

In spite of the many problems associated with his work, Gall made significant contributions to neurological science. In 1823, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Gall died in Paris, on 22 August 1828. Although married he had no direct descendent. However, direct descendants of his brothers lived in Germany until 1949. A collection of his skulls can be seen at the Rollet Museum in Baden bei Wien, Austria, where several of his relatives now live (http://www.bmi.gv.at/oeffentlsicherheit/2006/09_10/Seinerzeit.pdf).

Gall's theories had an influence both on the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso and on his French rival, Alexandre Lacassagne.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

Medical warning!
This article is from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Medical science has made many leaps forward since it has been written. This is not a site for medical advice, when you need information on a medical condition, consult a professional instead.

FRANZ JOSEPH GALL (1758-1828), anatomist, physiologist, and founder of phrenology, was born at Tiefenbrunn near Pforzheim, Baden, on the 9th of March 1758. After completing the usual literary course at Baden and Bruchsal, he began the study of medicine under J. Hermann (1738-1800) at Strassburg, whence, attracted by the names of Gerhard van Swieten (1700-1772) and Maximilian Stoll (1742-1788), he removed to Vienna in 1781. Having received his diploma, he began to practise as a physician there in 1785; but his energies were mainly devoted to the scientific investigation of problems which had occupied his attention from boyhood. At a comparatively early period he formed the generalization that in the human subject at least a powerful memory is invariably associated with prominent eyes; and further observation enabled him, as he thought, also to define the external characteristics indicative of special talents for painting, music and the mechanical arts. Following out these researches, he gradually reached the strong conviction, not only that the talents and dispositions of men are dependent upon the functions of the brain, but also that they may be inferred with perfect exactitude and precision from the external appearances of the skull. Gall's first appearance as an author was made in 1791, when he published the first two chapters of a (never completed) work entitled Philosophisch-medicinische Untersuchungen fiber Natur u. Kunst im kranken u. gesunden Zustande des Menschen. The first public notice of his inquiries in cranioscopy, however, was in the form of a letter addressed to a friend, which appeared in C. M. Wieland's Deutscher Mercur in 1798; but two years previously he had begun to give private courses of phrenological lectures in Vienna, where his doctrines soon attracted general attention, and met with increasing success until, in 1802, they were interdicted by the government as being dangerous to religion. This step on the part of the authorities had the effect of greatly stimulating public curiosity and increasing Gall's celebrity.

In March 1805 he finally left Vienna in company with his friend and associate J. C. Spurzheim, and made a tour through Germany, in the course of which he lectured in Berlin, Dresden, Magdeburg and several of the university towns. His expositions, which he knew how to make popular and attractive, were much resorted to by the public, and excited considerable controversy in the scientific world. He had almost reached the zenith of his fame when, in 1807, he repaired to Paris and established himself there as a medical practitioner, at the same time continuing his activity as a lecturer and writer. In 1808 appeared his Introduction au cours de physiologic du cerveau, which was followed in 1809 by the Recherches sur le systeme nerveux en general, et sur celui du cerveau en particulier (originally laid before the Institute of France in March 1808), and in 1810 by the first instalment of the Anatomic et physiologic du systeme nerveux en general, et du cerveau en particulier, avec des observations sur la possibilite de reconnaitre plusieurs dispositions intellectuelles et morales de l'homme et des animaux par la configuration de leurs tetes. The Recherches and the first two volumes of the Anatomic bear the conjoint names of Gall and Spurzheim. The latter work was completed in 1819, and appeared in a second edition of six volumes in 1822-1825. In 1811 he replied to a charge of Spinozism or atheism, which had been strongly urged against him, by a treatise entitled Des dispositions innees de fame et de l'esprit, which he afterwards incorporated with his greater work. In 1819 he became a naturalized French subject, but his efforts two years afterwards to obtain admission to the Academy of Sciences, although supported by E. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, were unsuccessful. In 1823 he visited London with the intention of giving a series of phrenological lectures, but his reception was not what he had anticipated, and he speedily abandoned his plans. He continued to lecture and practise in Paris until the beginning of 1828, when he was disabled by an apoplectic seizure. His death took place at Montrouge near Paris, on the 22nd of August 1828.


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