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JAMA 100 Years Ago
December 9, 2009

THE VINDICATION OF GALL

JAMA. 2009;302(22):2494. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1687

Most physicians know the name of Gall because they have heard of the columns of Gall and Burdach in the spinal cord; but few realize that the Dr. Gall who is thus commemorated is the father of so-called phrenology—that is, the attempt to determine intellectual capacity and mental characteristics from the appearance of the skull—and also the pioneer discoverer of the physiology of the brain. Dr. Bernard Hollander, who is president of the Ethological Society and physician to the British Hospital for Mental Disorders, has spent many years in vindicating the reputation of this great anatomist of the brain from undeserved aspersions and from exaggerated pretensions made by disciples.1 Gall's career illustrates the penalties of being before one's time in knowledge. It is dangerous to discover, before men's minds are prepared for the truth, the circulation of the blood, or that the heart is a muscle, or that the earth moves, because, as Harvey and Steno and Galileo realized to their cost, men do not like to have their cherished beliefs turned to foolishness.

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