Article ID: CBB001420780

Psychological and Anthropological Study of a Mental Calculator (2014)


Nicolas, Serge (Author)
Guida, Alessandro (Author)
Levine, Zachary (Author)

Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Volume: 23, no. 2
Issue: 2
Pages: 140-159
Publication date: 2014
Language: English

In the nineteenth century, French scientific institutions became interested in young mental calculators, arithmetical prodigies able to quickly and accurately perform complex mental calculations. The first scientists to study mental calculators were phrenologists who sought to prove the existence of a calculating organ in the frontal lobe. Paul Broca introduced one such mental calculator, Jacques Inaudi, to the Anthropological Society of Paris in 1880. Broca attributed extraordinary faculty for mental calculation to memory functioning (the psychological hypothesis) rather than physiological difference (the phrenological hypothesis). In 1892, prominent French Academy of Sciences member Jean-Martin Charcot produced a noteworthy study of Inaudi on the organization's behalf. Charcot observed that Inaudi called upon auditory memory rather than visual memory in his mental calculations, unlike most mental calculators who preceded him. Like Broca, Charcot was skeptical of the phrenological hypothesis, though he noted that Inaudi's skull was markedly plagiocephalic. Interestingly, anthropological examination of Inaudi is consistent with the themes of modern cognitive neuroscience. Thus, Charcot seems to have anticipated present research on the localization of mental calculation and memory for numbers.

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Authors & Contributors
Hagner, Michael
Leblanc, Richard
Ashley, Susan A.
Blanckaert, C.
Burman, Jeremy Trevelyan
Domanski, Cezary W.
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
History of Psychology
Interdisciplinary Science Reviews
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Science in Context
McGill-Queen's University Press
Bloomsbury Academic
MIT Press
Plural Publishing, Inc.
Broca, Paul
Charcot, Jean Martin
Binet, Alfred
Bouillaud, Jean Baptiste
Chomsky, Noam
Gall, Franz Joseph
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
18th century
20th century, late
21st century
Paris (France)
Montreal (Quebec, Canada)
Copenhagen (Denmark)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT
Montreal Neurological Institute
International Brain Research Organization
Society for Neuroscience
Neurosciences Research Program

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