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Johann Spurzheim

Johann Spurzheim
Johann Spurzheim
Born December 31, 1776
Trier, Electorate of Trier, Germany
Died November 10, 1832
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Nationality German
Fields Phrenology
Influences Franz Josef Gall
Phrenology chart attributed to Dr. Spurzheim. Lithograph submitted to the Library of Congress by Pendleton's Lithography, 1834.

Johann Gaspar Spurzheim (1776–1832) was a German physician who became one of the chief proponents of phrenology, which was developed c. 1800 by Franz Joseph Gall (1758–1828).


Spurzheim was born near Trier, Germany, on December 31, 1776, and studied medicine at the University of Vienna. He became acquainted with Gall in 1800 and was soon hired by him as an assistant. Gall intended to have Spurzheim as his successor and added his name as a co-author to books and publications. In 1812, however, Gall and Spurzheim had a falling out, and Spurzheim started a separate career, lecturing and writing extensively on what he termed 'Drs. Gall and Spurzheim's physiognomical System'. He greatly popularised phrenology, and travelled extensively throughout Europe, achieving considerable success in England and France.

He died of typhoid in Boston in 1832, cutting short his first and only American tour. After the public autopsy of Spurzheim, his brain, skull, and heart were removed, preserved in jars of alcohol as relics, and put on display to the public.[1] Adoring Bostonians staged an elaborate public funeral and erected a monument in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[2]

Spurzheim made many alterations to Gall's phrenological system, including an increase in the number of "organs", as well as its organization into a hierarchical system. Spurzheim also used images and busts to illustrate the craniographic approach of phrenology.


  1. ^ Walsh, Anthony, "The American Tour of Dr. Spurzheim", Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 27 (1972), pp. 187-205.
  2. ^ Spurzheim Monument at Mount Auburn Cemetery

External links

  • Johann Gaspar Spurzheim. WhoNamedIt.
  • Talking Heads: Phrenology at the Countway Library, 2002.
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