Franz Joseph Gall

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Franz Joseph Gall (9 March 1758 - 22 August 1828) was neuroscientist who believed that mental functions are localized in discrete parts of the brain, and is famous for founding the notorious pseudoscience of phrenology. That fact is unfortunate for his reputation, as he also directly influenced the advance of neuroscience, carrying out meticulous dissections of the brain and spinal cord. His contributions to neuroscience have been largely eclipsed by his association with phrenology.

Dr. Franz Joesph Gall was German, and trained in Austria; "born in Tiefenbrunn, in Baden, and obtained his medical doctorate in Vienna in 1785". [1]. Apparently, he noticed a correlation between excellent verbal memories and very large eyes in his classmates in childhood, and used this correlation in his later thinking about the brain. As a physician, he took every opportunity to palpate the skulls of individuals with decided talents or unusual tendicies; including artists, criminals, the insane, and he recorded his findings prospectively. He collected both actual skulls and plaster casts of the skulls of his subjects in order to refine his data.

At the same time as Gall, and his student, Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, were elaborating the principles of phrenology, they were also furthering the infant disciplines of neuropathology and neuroanatomy. They established methods of preserving the brain in fixatives, and dissected out tracts within the central nervous system. They accurately described white matter of the brain as consisting of fibers.

In 1801, Dr. Gall was forced to stop his lectures by the Kaiser, the last Holy Roman Emperor Francis II. Gall left Germany with lecture props that included a large assortment of real human and animal skulls, wax casts of skulls and brains, two live monkeys, and Dr. Spurzheim - as assistant. Traveling through Europe from lecture hall to lecture hall, he became an international celebrity.

References (footnotes)

1)Donald Simpson: PHRENOLOGY AND THE NEUROSCIENCES: CONTRIBUTIONS OF F. J. GALL AND J. G. SPURZHEIM. COWLISHAW SYMPOSIUM. ANZ J. Surg. 2005; 75 : 475–482
  1. Donald Simpson: PHRENOLOGY AND THE NEUROSCIENCES: CONTRIBUTIONS OF F. J. GALL AND J. G. SPURZHEIM. COWLISHAW SYMPOSIUM. ANZ J. Surg. 2005; 75 : 475–482)