Lives of the fellows

John Gaspar Spurzheim

b.31 December 1776 d.10 November 1832
MD Vienna(1804) LRCP(1817)

John Gaspar Spurzheim, M.D., was born on the 31st December, 1776, at Longvich, near Treves, on the Moselle. Intended for a clergyman, he was sent to the university of Treves, but the war dispersing the students in 1799, he removed to Vienna, where he became the tutor in a private family. Whilst acting in that capacity, he made the acquaintance of Dr. Gall, and in the year 1800 attended the private course of lectures on phrenology, which Gall occasionally delivered at his own house. Becoming a convert to the principles advocated by Gall, and allured by the wide and uncultivated field of research opened to his view, Spurzheim forsook the study of theology and devoted himself to medicine, applying more particularly to anatomy and physiology. He graduated doctor of medicine at Vienna 7th August, 1804, and then became the associate and fellow-labourer with Gall.

In 1805 Dr. Gall was ordered to discontinue teaching his new doctrines or to quit Vienna. He chose the latter alternative, and, with Dr. Spurzheim, set out on a lengthened journey through Europe. They visited the principal cities in Germany and the north of Europe, and arrived at Paris in 1807. In the following year, they presented to the Institute a joint memoir on the anatomy of the brain, describing the structure of its convolutions and their connection with the rest of the cerebral mass. Shortly after this, they proceeded with the great work, essentially Dr. Gall’s, entitled, The Anatomy and Physiology of the Nervous System in general and of the Brain in particular, with Observations upon the possibility of ascertaining several intellectual dispositions of Man and Animals by the Configuration of their Heads, 4 vols, folio, with an atlas of 1,000 plates. In 1813, during the publication of this work, some disagreement occurred between the authors, and the work, which was not completed until 1819, was continued by Gall alone.

In 1814 Dr. Spurzheim visited England, and by his lectures and writings disseminated a knowledge of phrenology, and rendered its principles in some degree popular. On the 25th June, 1817, he was admitted a Licentiate of the College of Physicians, shortly after which he returned to Paris. He revisited England in 1825, and, with the exception of occasional excursions to Paris, continued here, and giving lectures on phrenology in the principal cities of England, Ireland, and Scotland, until his departure for America in 1832. Arrived in America, he began a course of lectures at Boston, which he had nearly finished, when he was attacked with severe illness, from which he died on the 10th November, 1832, aged fifty-six.(1)

Dr. Spurzheim was the author of—
The Physiognomical System of Drs. Gall and Spurzheim, founded on an Examination of the Nervous System and Brain, explained. 8vo. Lond. 1815.
Observations on the Deranged Manifestations of the Mind or Insanity. 8vo. Lond. 1817.
A View of the Philosophical Principles of Phrenology. 8vo. Lond. 3rd edition. 1825.
The Anatomy of the Brain, with a general view of that of the Nervous System, translated by R. Willis, M.D. 8vo. Lond. 1826.
Phrenology; or the Doctrine of the Mind and of the Relations between its Manifestations and the Body. 3rd edition. 8vo. Lond. 1825.
Essai Philosophique sur la Nature Morale et Intellectuelle de l’Homme. 8vo. Paris. 1820.
Phrenology in Connexion with the Study of Physiognomy. Part I. Characters. 8vo. Lond. 1826.
A View of the Elementary Principles of Education, founded on the Study of the Nature of Man. 8vo. Lond. 1828.
Outlines of Phrenology.
Examination of the Objections made in Great Britain against the doctrines of Gall and Spurzheim. 8vo. Edinb. 1817.
A Catechism of Man.

William Munk

[(1) Athenæum, December, 1832.]

(Volume III, page 166)

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