Gall's German enemies
SourceJournal of the History of the Neurosciences, 29, 1, (2020), pp. 70-89
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC NRP
Journal of the History of the Neurosciences
SubjectNeuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology; Neuro- en revalidatiepsychologie
Franz Joseph Gall's (1758-1828) proposal for a new theory about how to represent the mental faculties is well known. He replaced the traditional perception-judgement-memory triad of abstract faculties with a set of 27 highly specific faculties, many of which humans share with animals. In addition, he argued that these faculties are dependent on specific cortical areas, these being his organs of mind. After several years of presenting his new views in Vienna, he was banned from lecturing for what he considered absurd reasons. The edict enticed him to make a scientific journey through the German states, both to present his ideas to targeted audiences and to collect more cases. This trip, started in 1805, was extended to include stops in Denmark, Holland, and Switzerland before finally ending in Paris in 1807. For the most part, Gall was received with great enthusiasm in what is now Germany, but there were some individuals who strongly opposed his anatomical discoveries and skull-based doctrine. In this article, we examine the concerns and arguments raised by Johann Gotlieb Walter in Berlin, Henrik Steffens in Halle, Jakob Fidelis Ackermann in Heidelberg, and Samuel Thomas Soemmerring in Munich, as well as how Gall responded to them.
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