Another Conference: Calgary, This Saturday!

I’ve been invited to present a poster (my first one ever) at the History of Medicine Days at the University of Calgary this weekend. Frank Stahnisch and others are hosting it. It should be fun!

Here is the abstract I submitted:

Who Wants to Succeed a Phrenologist?
Brain Science and Localization around 1900

“New phrenology,” “Neophrenologie,” “le nouveau phrénologie,” or similar designations have been in use for more than a century. Authors from inside and outside of the mind and brain sciences have employed these terms to refer, for example, to the localization of neural pathways and functions; to the modularization of the brain; to neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and neuro-histology more broadly; to psychoanalysis, neuropsychology, and neuropsychiatry; to physical anthropology; to intelligence testing; and to neuroimaging.

Unlike contemporary uses of the term “new phrenology” to revile neuroimaging in the late 20th and early 21st century, the designation “new phrenology” often transported positive meanings around 1900. It described, for instance, a methodologically novel but conceptually traditional science and a holistic as well as humanistic approach to the brain and mind. A diverse set of turn-of-the-century scholars, among others Pierre Flourens, Paul Broca, Gustav Fritsch, Eduard Hitzig, David Ferrier, Paul Flechsig, and Charles Sherrington, were seen as—or regarded themselves—proponents of a “new phrenology.”

Drawing on turn-of-the-century publications containing the term “new phrenology,” this paper will shed light on the evolution of the meanings of “new phrenology” in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It inquires into the extent to which the designation has been employed to promote, contextualize, challenge, or disapprove of scientists, their work, and their knowledge. The paper will particularly focus on the contexts in which the term has been used and by whom; that is, it will investigate into the disciplinary backgrounds of the authors using the term for themselves or other scholars, into their audience, and into the concept of “(new) phrenology” that is underlying their usage. These considerations allow a discussion of the (dis)continuity of phrenological ideas and traditions in the mind and brain sciences around 1900.


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