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Buchanan, Joseph Rodes (11 December 1814–26 December 1899), physician and author, was born in Frankfort, Kentucky, the son of Joseph Buchanan, a physician, and Nancy Rodes Garth. His father had a varied career as a physician and journalist and was one of the first faculty members at Transylvania University in Lexington. Upon his father’s death in 1829, Buchanan worked as both a printer and schoolteacher in Lexington. In 1835 he became acquainted with the “science” of phrenology formulated by the European investigators, Franz Joseph Gall and Johann Gaspar Spurzheim. Buchanan found phrenology to be a promising technique for investigating humanity’s moral and intellectual capacities and resolved to further his studies by entering medical school at the University of Louisville....

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Charles Caldwell. Courtesy of the National Library of Medicine (B04072).

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Caldwell, Charles (14 May 1772–09 July 1853), physician, author, and teacher, was born in Caswell County, North Carolina, the son of Charles Caldwell, a farmer. His mother’s maiden name was Murray, although her given name is unknown. Caldwell’s father was an elder in the Presbyterian church and wanted Charles to become a minister. Accordingly, from the age of eleven to fourteen, Caldwell studied Latin and classical literature at a Latin school operated by Dominie Harris in Mecklenburg County. By the time Caldwell left Harris’s school, however, he had decided against a religious career....

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Fowler, Lorenzo Niles (23 June 1811–02 September 1896), phrenologist, was born in Cohocton, Steuben County, New York, the son of Horace Fowler and Martha Howe, farmers. He pursued studies that would lead to the ministry and also studied in the classical department of Amherst Academy, Amherst, Massachusetts. Deeply influenced by his older brother ...

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Fowler, Orson Squire (11 October 1809–18 August 1887), phrenologist and publisher, was born in Cohocton, Steuben County, New York, the son of Horace Fowler, a farmer, and Martha Howe. He was graduated from Amherst College in 1834 and in 1835 married Eliza Brevoort Chevalier, a widow, by whom he had two children. Though educated for the ministry, he devoted himself to phrenology, the “science” of the mind that was formulated by Franz Joseph Gall and introduced to the United States by Johann Gaspar Spurzheim. Phrenology postulated that, because the brain was the organ of the mind and shaped the skull, there was an observable concomitance between the mind (talents, disposition, character) and the shape of the head. In an analysis, a phrenologist examined the latter to determine the former. Immediately after graduation Fowler started his professional career as itinerant practical phrenologist in New England. Using charts and a phrenological bust, he lectured on phrenology and analyzed heads, sizing “organs” or “faculties” such as amativeness, combativeness, firmness, and ideality to determine character. It was believed that each faculty manifested itself through its own cerebral organ, the size of which indicated its functional power. The size of the organ, it was believed, could be increased or decreased by exercise....

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Sizer, Nelson (21 May 1812–18 October 1897), phrenologist, was born in Chester, Massachusetts, the son of Fletcher Sizer, a mechanic, and Lydia Bassett. At fourteen he worked in a woolen mill, becoming its manager three years later. Subsequently he was a carpenter and then partner in a paper mill, and he also contributed articles to the local press. In 1832, when Johann Gaspar Spurzheim lectured on phrenology in Boston, Sizer was deeply impressed with the new so-called science of mind. In 1833 he married Lucinda Maria Phelps, with whom he had two children. She died in 1839, and in that year he abandoned paper manufacturing to devote himself to phrenology....

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Wells, Samuel Roberts (04 April 1820–13 April 1875), publisher, was born in West Hartford, Connecticut, the son of Russell Wells, a farmer (mother’s name unknown). Shortly after his birth the family moved to a farm near Little Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario in Wayne County, New York. Samuel was apprenticed to a tanner and currier, but, planning to study medicine at Yale, he pursued some preliminary work by reading medical texts....