Michaela Peterson Capstone

For my capstone, I created a website for the Hyrtl Skull Exhibit at the Mutter Museum. There are one-hundred-thirty-nine skulls in the collection, and Hyrtl took very detailed notes on all of them, beyond occupation or age or cause of death. He looked at where the skulls were from and the shape of them. This collection was amassed to disprove the theory of phrenology, which is the idea that you can determine a person’s intelligence based on the size and shape of their cranium. This idea was used to support slavery and white supremacy. I first did research on Dr. Hyrtl and then I started to catalogue the data that I was given. This is what took my the longest, as there are one-hundred-thirty-nine skulls and the data was not organized in a way that you could draw conclusions from it. I created a 20 page table with nine columns that summarized all of the data. From there I found statistics like average age, sex ratio, and causes of death. Once that was done, I took all of my data and put it into my website. I also shared this chart with the Mutter, so they have a better idea of what their collection looks like.

My bibliography:

Bank, Andrew. "Of 'Native Skulls' and 'Noble Caucasians'™: Phrenology in Colonial South Africa." Journal of Southern African Studies 22.3 (1996): 387-403. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. This article talks about one of the most common uses for phrenology. Because phrenology came to rise around the same time as mass colonialism and nationalism did, it became common to justify the colonialism and mistreatment of native peoples and their land using phrenology. It is common to see terms used like “alien race” or “inferior race” when colonizers were talking about the people they colonized. These terms are a result of phrenology saying that Causians are the superior race, and all others are less advanced. This source looks a South Africa specifically, as the results phrenology and colonialism there still have lasting effects on the population.

Dhody, Anna, comp. Hyrtl Skull Exhibit. 1874. Exhibit at the Mutter Museum. The Mutter Museum at the College of Physcians, Phildadelphia. This source is my raw data for the project. These 139 skulls were collected by Dr. Josef Hyrtl throughout the course of his life. In 1874, they were bought by the Mütter Museum at the College of Physicians. On each of the skulls is a short description of the person to whom the skull belonged, which may include a name, occupation, sex, age, religion, place of origin, cause of death, and a description of the skull, among other things. One downside to this source is the fact that I am working with translations, as the original descriptions were written in German. However, they were translated by a professional, and there are not many words that could get confused in translation.

Ilacqua, Joan, comp. Talking Heads. N.d. Exhibit. The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston. This collection is about Phrenology and the history of studying skulls. It discusses four men, Franz Gall, Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, and the Flower brothers, who contributed to the concepts and ideas of phrenology. This source also provides a very good definition for phrenology and why it was so popular. It also expands on what phrenology is involved with now, as it has been separated from the science that it was originally associated with. While Keckeisen addressed the root of phrenology, this source expanded on what was already given. It also explained what happened to phrenology after Gall created and shared his ideas about the shape of the skull and brain and how they relate to different attributes of different people.

Jahoda, Gustav. "Intra-€European Racism in Nineteenth‐Century Anthropology." History and Anthropology 20.1 (2009): 37-56. Web. This source talks about how phrenology and craniology, a precursor to phrenology, were used by early anthropologists to create different sub-groups within various races, especially causians. This practice was mostly used to prove that northern, WASP (white, anglo-saxon, protestant) Europeans were superior to all other. That would mean a German or Frenchman would be superior to a Greek or Italian, but all of them were superior to the rest of the people from the world. This source gives a lot of context for the information that is on the skulls, especially in concern to why religion was only noted sometimes and where each person was said to have come from.

Jenkins, Bill. "Phrenology, Heredity and Progress in George Combe's Constitution of Man." The British Journal for the History of Science 48.03 (2015): 455-73. Web. This source focuses more on the scientific ideas of phrenology and on one of the most important books on phrenology ever written, George Combe’s Constitution of Man. This book was published in 1828 and maintained its relevance and importance throughout the second half of the century. I was concerned that this source would not provide me enough information about the ideas of phrenology itself, but it explained the ideas of phrenology very well, as well as explaining why this book was so important. This source did focus solely on George Combe’s research, but because of the time period in which he lived, his research would have been very influential on Hyrtl’s own research and what data he collected while he was studying his skull collection.

Keckeisen, Sara K. "The Grinning Wall: History, Exhibition, and Application of the Hyrtl Skull Collection at the Mutter Museum." Thesis. Thesis / Dissertation ETD, 2012. Theses. Senton Hall University. Web. 2 Feb. 2017. This source is an analysis of the Hyrtl Skull Exhibit at the Mutter Museum and the ethics and methods of displaying an exhibit such as this. I was concerned that this source would focus too much on how the exhibit was displayed and whether or not displaying an exhibit like this is ethical, especially because the Museum did not obtain consent from the decedent. However, it provided very good information about the history of studying the skull, phrenology, and why Hyrtl collected the skulls on pages four through thirteen. Overall, the majority of the source was somewhat useful, however the pages noted above gave clearer answers to my questions about the history of phrenology than any of my other sources.

Lewis, Jason E., David Degusta, Marc R. Meyer, Janet M. Monge, Alan E. Mann, and Ralph L. Holloway. "The Mismeasure of Science: Stephen Jay Gould versus Samuel George Morton on Skulls and Bias." PLoS Biology 9.6 (2011): n. pag. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. This source focuses on one of the many obvious scientific problems with Phrenology, which is the fact that much of the data used to uphold this “science” was manipulated, misreported, and selected to fit the researcher's’ preconceived notions about humanity and where they stood in regards to other races. This source looks at Stephen Gould’s work about Samuel George Morton’s work. Gould took Morton’s work as a case study for the manipulation of evidence and data to support your own conclusions in the scientific community. It would have been better to look at Gould’s work first hand, but there was no easy or free way to access that in the time period I had.

Morton, Samuel George. "The Debate Over Slavery." Exploring U.S. History | the Debate over Slavery. Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, n.d. Web. 03 Feb. 2017. This source is a series of excerpts from Samuel George Morton’s book Crania Americana. Morton lived around the same time as Hyrtl and collected a similar number of skulls. However, Morton collected his skulls to try to prove phrenology, or, as he called it, craniology. Morton’s collection is currently on display at the Penn Museum and is often compared to Hyrtl’s collection. These excerpts described his ranking of the different human races and their intelligence in regards to skull capacity. The one downside to this source is that the excerpts have been edited from the original text. However, Morton’s meaning and intention are still clear.

Wells, Samuel R. How to Read Character: A New Illustrated Hand-book of Phrenology and Physiognomy for Students and Examiners; with a Descriptive Chart. New York: Samuel R. Wells, 1870. Print. This source is a book on phrenology from 1869. It was designed to be a how-to guide for phrenology, including descriptions of the different races, what the average skull for each race looked like and how it measured, and what each of the those measurements “meant” in terms of intelligence, character, and attitude. It also talked about which parts of the brain, and therefore the skull, affect different parts of people’s characters. I was unable to read the entire book, so I am most likely missing some information, but I read all of the sections that addressed the questions I had. They site I was reading the book did not have the highest quality scans, so I did not completely understand everything that was written.

Wiest, Gerald, and Robert W. Baloh. "The Personal and Scientific Feud Between Ernst Brücke and Josef Hyrtl." Otology & Neurotology 27.4 (2006): 570-75. Web. 3 Feb. 2017. This sources focuses more on the personal life of Hyrtl and his research and work outside of his skull collection. It focuses mostly on Hyrtl’s personal and scientific feud with one of his contemporaries, which made me sceptical of its usefulness as a source. This source gave me more information about who Hyrtl was and why he was so important then any other source I have found. It speaks in depth about Hyrtl’s work as an anatomist and his work in understanding how the human body works. It also spoke to his personal beliefs about how scientific research should be approached. You can see how that might affect the his views on phrenology and how it was used to justify slavery of Africans and the mistreatment of other races.