Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Outside the Box - February

Object: Phrenology Skull
Collection: Lamartine G. Hardman Papers

Lamartine Hardman, Physician...
Though he served as Governor of Georgia from 1927 until 1931, Lamartine Hardman was a man of many talents and interests that began long before his career in politics. Like his father, Dr. William Benjamin Johnson, Hardman was a trained physician. He earned his medical degree from Georgia Medical College in Augusta in 1876. From there, he furthered his medical training at Bellevue Hospital in New York and with continued studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the New York Polyclinic, and Guy Hospital in London. After an extensive education, he returned to Georgia and opened the Hardman Sanatorium with his brother, William B. Hardman, in 1899.

What Was Phrenology?
Introduced in Germany in the 1790s, phrenology was a science that purported to determine an individual’s characteristics based on the size of various portions of the brain. Phrenologists considered the mind to be composed of distinct “faculties” which defined the characteristics of personality. Because of their distinct nature, it was determined that each faculty must have a separate seat in the brain and that the size of each was a measure of its relative power.
It was asserted that the skull took shape from the brain, so therefore the surface of the skull was an index of psychological aptitudes and tendencies.

This pseudoscience made its way to the United States in the 1860s and 1870s, but was entertained only on the fringe of academic medicine. It was largely discredited by the late 19th century; the American Phrenological Journal was discontinued in 1911. The legacy of phrenology, a practice known as “head measuring” was employed by racial anthropologists seeking to confirm the superiority of Europeans to other humans, in the early 20th century.

What Was On Hardman's Mind?
Why would Lamartine Hardman have owned such an object? His high-powered medical education in both the United States and abroad suggests that he would have regarded the skull as more of a curiosity rather than a useful aid for diagnosis. However, his interest in neurology (demonstrated by his research in anesthesia) and operation of a sanatorium might explain his interest in this artifact of psychiatry. Alternately, Lamartine might have inherited this skull from his father, a physician who practiced in an earlier era.

February's “Outside the Box” object will be on display in the lobby gallery of the Russell Library, open 8:30 am – 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday, until March 1st. For further information please contact or visit

Post by Jan Levinson, Assistant Outreach Archivist, Russell Library

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