Brain Collecting

Brain Collecting

Sunday, September 18, 2005
| Philippians 1:21-30

Brian Burrell’s new book, Postcards From the Brain Museum, explores the bizarre history of phrenology.

Some people ought to have their heads examined.

That’s a sentiment most of us have had from time to time in our less charitable moments.

But, of course, heads get examined all the time — in hospital labs, ERs and clinics.

Used to be that heads were examined, not for the presence of brain wave activity or tumors, but to predict a person’s future occupation and other personality traits. Now, a new book takes a look at that long-abandoned practice.

In his book, Postcards from the Brain Museum, Brian Burrell, explores the bizarre history of phrenology, whereby people attempted to determine the sources of genius and depravity by studying the actual physical properties of the head and when possible, the brain. While phrenology has long been discredited as a pseudo-science, the basic premise is still part of a greater debate. How much can we learn about people by examining this endlessly enigmatic organ?

Our interest in brains has given way to the collecting of them....

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