Article ID: CBB827397197

Cranial Compatibility: Phrenology, Measurement, and Marriage Assessment (2021)


This essay examines phrenological tools as instruments of matchmaking and focuses on the personal ad as a site for producing and exchanging knowledge about individuals. It shows how cranial measurement produced character profiles for the purpose of judging suitable marriage partners and how users integrated those profiles into personal advertisements published in the Water-Cure Journal. A popular but contested science of the mind, phrenology maintained that one could truly know others and oneself through measuring “organs” of the mind via protrusions on the skull. While much has been written about phrenology, less attention has been paid to its focus on marriage and mating and to how users enrolled phrenology to find and judge the viability of a mate. Focused on the American context in the 1850s, this essay will show that notions of race and gender, heredity, and marital “relations” were embedded in the shorthand of phrenological measurements and personal ads.

Included in

Article Hansun Hsiung; Elena Serrano (2021) Introduction: Epistemologies of the Match. Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences (pp. 760-765). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Thompson, Courtney Elizabeth
Cryle, Peter
Sharman Levinson
Gamble, James G.
Marie Walin
Scattolin, Giuliano
History of the Human Sciences
Pharmacy in History
Atti e Memorie, Rivista di Storia della Farmacia
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Springer International Publishing
University of California, San Diego
State University of New York at Buffalo
University of Chicago Press
University of California Press
Yale University
Medicine and society
Sexual behavior
Willard, Elizabeth Osgood Goodrich
Morton, Samuel George
Gall, Franz Joseph
Fowler, Orson Squire
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
United States
Padua (Italy)
Islands of the Pacific
California (U.S.)
University of Padua
United States. Army

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