Joseph’s Phrenology Report

May 27, 2004 | 8 comments
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I know, I know, this is something you’re more likely to see from Nate, but I couldn’t resist, especially after seeing Nate’s post of the Joseph Smith caricature.

Phrenology, the idea that the contours of one’s skull reveal something about one’s personality, was apparently fairly popular in Joseph Smith’s time. (And some today continue to regard it as somewhat reliable; I had a brief phrenological “exam” done while on my mission. I consider the results tainted because the examiner knew me for some time beforehand, but it was interesting.) Documentary History of the Church records the results of Joseph Smith’s phrenological exam. It may be interesting to compare this with other reports and analyses of the prophet.

Saturday, 2 [July 1841].
In this day’s Wasp, I find the following:—

Mr. Editor:
Sir:—

I take the liberty to inform you that a large number of persons in different places have manifested a desire to know the phrenological development of Joseph Smith’s head. I have examined the Prophet’s head, and he is perfectly willing to have the chart published. You will please publish in your paper such portions of it as I have marked, showing the development of his much-talked-of brain, and let the public judge for themselves whether phrenology proves the reports against him true or false. Time will prove all thing, and a “word to the wise is sufficient.”

Yours respectfully,
A. Crane.

A Phrenological Chart of Joseph Smith the Prophet by A. Crane, M.D., Professor of Phrenology.

Propensities.
Amativeness—11, L. Extreme susceptibility; passionately fond of the company of the other sex.
Philoprogenitiveness—9, L. Strong parental affection, great solicitude for their happiness.
Inhabitiveness—5, F. Attached to place of long residence; no desire to change residence.
Adhesiveness—8, F. Solicitous for the happiness of friends, and ardent attachments for the other sex.
Combativeness—8, L. Indomitable perseverance, great courage; force, ability to overpower.
Destructiveness—6, M. Ability to control the passions, and is not disposed to extreme measures.
Secretiveness—10, L. Great propensity and ability to conceal feelings, plans, &c.
Acquisitiveness—9, L. Strong love of riches, desire to make and save money.
Alimentativeness—9, L. Strong relish for food; keen and severe appetite.
Vitativeness—4, M. or S. Indifference to life; views the approach of death without fear.

Feelings.
Cautiousness—7, F. Provision against prospective dangers and ills, without hesitation or irresolution.
Approbativeness—10, L. Ambition for distinction; sense of character; sensibility to reproach, fear of scandal.
Self-esteem—10, L. High-mindedness, independence, self-confidence, dignity, aspiration for greatness.
Concentrativeness—7, F. Can dwell on a subject without fatigue, and control the imagination.

Sentiments.
Benevolence—10, L. Kindness, goodness, tenderness, sympathy.
Veneration—6, F. Religion, without great awe or enthusiasm; reasonable deference to superiority.
Firmness—10, L. Stability and decision of character and purpose.
Conscientiousness—8, L. High regard for duty, integrity, moral principle, justice, obligation, truth, &c.
Hope—10, L. Cheerfulness, sanguine expectation of success and enjoyment.
Marvelousness—10 L. Wonder, credulity, belief in the supernatural.
Imitation—5, M. Inferior imitative powers; failure to copy, describe, relate stories, &c.
Prepossession—8, L. or F. Attached to certain notions; not disposed to change them, &c.
Ideality—9, L. Lively imagination; fancy, taste, love of poetry, elegance, eloquence, excellence, &c.

Perceptives.
Admonition—8, F. or M. Desirous to know what others are doing; ready to counsel, and give hints of a fault or duty, &c.
Constructiveness—7, F. Respectable ingenuity, without uncommon skill, tact or facility in making, &c.
Tune—5, F. or M. Love of music, without quickness to catch or learn tunes by the ear.
Time—11, V. L. Distinct impressions as to the time when, how long, &c.
Locality—11, V. L. or L. Great memory of place and position.
Eventuality—11, V. L. Extraordinary recollection of minute circumstances.
Individuality—10, L. Great desire to see; power of observation.
Form—10, F. Cognizance, and distinct recollection of shapes, countenances, &c.
Size—11, N. L. or F. Ability to judge of proportionate size, &c.
Weight—9, V. L. L. F. Knowledge of gravitation, momentum, &c.
Color—9, F. or M. Moderate skill in judging of colors, comparing and arranging them.
Language—6, F. Freedom of expression, without fluency or verbosity; no great loquacity.
Order—9, L. Love of arrangement, everything in its particular place.
Number—7. Respectable aptness in arithmetical calculations, without extraordinary talent.

Reflectives.
Mirthfulness—10, L. Wit, fun, mirth, perception and love of the ludicrous.
Causality—9, L. Ability to think and reason clearly, and perceive the relation of cause and effect.
Comparison—11, V. L. Extraordinary critical acumen; great power of analysis.

There are four temperaments. The lymphatic or phlegmatic, in which the secreting glands are the most active portion of the system, produces both corporeal and mental languor, dullness, and inactivity. The sanguine in which the arterial portion of the system is most active, gives strong feelings and passions, and more ardor, zeal, and activity, than of strength or power. The bilious, in which the muscular portion predominates in activity, produces strength, power, and endurance of body, with great force and energy of mind and character. The nervous, in which the brain and nervous system are most active, gives the highest degree of activity, with clearness of perception and of thought, but less endurance. Sharp and prominent organs denote activity; smooth and broad ones intensity and strength.

Explanation of the Chart.

The written figures opposite the organs and ranging in a scale from 1 to 12, indicate the various degrees in which the respective organs are developed in the head of the individual examined; thus 1, 2 indicate that the organ is very small or almost wholly wanting; 3, 4 means small, or feeble, and inactive; 5, 6 moderate or active only in a subordinate degree; 7, 8, full or fair, and a little above par; 9, 10, large, or quite energetic, and having a marked influence upon the character; 11, 12, mean very large, or giving a controlling influence, and extreme liability to perversion. The size of the brain, combinations of the faculties and temperament of the individual, may be indicated in the same manner as the degrees of the faculties or organs.

The initials V. L. denote very large, L. large, F. full, M. moderate, S. small, V. S. very small.

[Joseph or his editors added the following note:] I give the foregoing a place in my history for the gratification of the curious, and not for [any] respect [I entertain for] phrenology.

(History of the Church 5:52-55)

8 Responses to Joseph’s Phrenology Report

  1. Nate Oman on May 27, 2004 at 4:08 pm

    This is great! Thanks for posting it.

    When I was in High School, I remember reading Francis Parkman’s history of the French in North America. He has one whole chapter devoted to phrenological studies of the Iroquios. This was the cutting edge history for its day. The socio-biology and neuro-sociology of its time…

  2. Davis Bell on May 27, 2004 at 5:43 pm

    Some people still regard phrenology as reliable?

  3. Kaimi on May 27, 2004 at 5:47 pm

    Wait a minute — phrenology isn’t reliable?

    :)

  4. Ben S. on May 27, 2004 at 5:57 pm

    Phrenology may be bunk, but the history of phrenology- That’s scholarship:)

  5. William Morris on May 27, 2004 at 5:59 pm

    I don’t know, that Amativeness score…

    I would have expected I higher number in the Admonition category, however.

  6. Kaimi on May 27, 2004 at 6:05 pm

    A good friend of mine from law school wrote his dissertation on phrenology in literature.

  7. Nate Oman on May 27, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    Let’s not forget Pierre Schlag, “Law and Phrenology,” 110 Harv. L. Rev. 877 (1997).

  8. Ivan Wolfe on May 28, 2004 at 12:12 am

    I knew a Mormon lady in Alaska who not only practiced phrenology, but claimed that the Lord inspired her to offer her services to the CIA, and that they accepted. [Or something like that - it may have been her (also LDS) mentor in phrenology who worked for the CIA - this was when I was 11 or 12].

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