Le Bon Gustave - On the Capacity of the Skull of a Certain Number of Celebrated Men


Author : Le Bon Gustave
Title : On the Capacity of the Skull of a Certain Number of Celebrated Men
Year : 1879

Link download : Le_Bon_Gustave_-_On_the_Capacity_of_the_Skull_of_a_Certain_Number_of_Celebrated_Men.zip

Messieurs, I have the honor of presenting before the Society the results of research that I have seen to undertake on a very curious collection which the Natural History Museum of Paris possesses, and which is composed of original skulls relating to known persons, some of whom are very famous, as included among them are Marshal Jourdan, General Wurmser, Boileau, Gall, etc. Many of these skulls originate from fragments previously reassembled by Gall during the period of his greatness, others from the estate of a prominent collector, Dumoutier, whose specialty was robbing the sepulchral vaults of illustrious men for the benefit of his collection. These two collections, which emanate from the uniting of pieces of diverse provenances, have been acquired at great expense by the Museum of Paris, and afterwards have been stored for some time in one of the rooms of the laboratory of this establishment, where I have been able to study them, thanks to the obligingness of the laboratory's directors. Their scientific study has not yet been made; for, among the various records that the Museum possesses about them, there does not exist a single measurement, and, relative to all those skulls which had passed through the hands of Gall, not one record in his catalog indicates those which were striking by their smallness or their largeness. It is not necessary to insist at length on the interest that exists for anthropology to study the skulls representing well-known individuals. The skulls that our museums possess nearly always are those of unknown persons, and if their study may furnish some information from the standpoint of the race, they do not supply anything from the standpoint of the affinities possibly existing between the exterior forms and the intellectual aptitudes. The study of these skulls was, moreover, of considerable interest to me, because it enabled me to verify, regarding those persons whose aptitudes had been well understood, some of my conclusions appearing in a recent work of mine concerning the affinities existing between the development of the skull and the corresponding level of intelligence-conclusions which have occasioned lively polemics within important French and foreign reviews. I shall recount here only a few of these conclusions: Among the diverse factors correlating with the intellectual condition, one of the most important is the volume of the brain. Within each race the most voluminous skulls nearly always belong to the most intelligent persons. In proportion as one rises up the scale of the races, greater differences in brain capacity are seen amongst individuals. Far from restricting the differences existing among men, civilization only serves but to increase them, and consequently, it is not towards an intellectual equality that we advance, but towards an inequality more and more accentuated. Anatomical, and therefore physiological, equality is not possible among people belonging to entirely inferior races. From the anatomical standpoint, and intellectual as well, there exists among the diverse classes of the superior races immense differences. A great number of men occupy, by the very small volume of their skulls, an intermediate place between the anthropoid apes and those individuals whose brains are the most developed. The research whose results I have seen to set forth deals only with cranial capacity. In no way, like I have already said, and I stress besides, have I held true for a single instant that skull volume is the sole factor which determines the development of the intelligence. Plenty of other factors, the shape for example, as I hope to fully demonstrate some day, account for this; but, because one is unable to simultaneously grapple with all these factors, I shall begin with one of them. The volume is the one that I have entertained to approach, and it is for this single matter that I again present myself. If one eliminates from the collection of which I have spoken the women, criminals, and pathological persons, classifications comprising another part of the Museum from where I have conducted my research, there remains 42 skulls having belonged to individuals who were well-known during their lifetime. A good part pertain to quite famous men, others to persons possessing an intelligence obviously well above the average, and others to individuals who, although they had not presented proof of a superior intelligence, figure in the collection only because of the high social position which they had occupied in the world. These are then, in reality, distinct categories; but, as one may debate about their limits, and given that I do not wish to see anyone accusing me of having eliminated unfavorable persons from my thesis, I have brought together all of the skulls before separating them. In spite of incorporating disadvantageous data, the results obtained are, as I shall demonstrate, most convincing, and absolutely confirm the theory that I have previously expounded. The average capacity of these 42 skulls is, in fact, enormous; whereas the average for one of the most intelligent contemporary groups, modern day Parisians of the masculine sex, is 1559 cubic centimeters, that of the 42 famous men is 1682 cubic centimeters. Now, given that the average for negroes is about 1430 cubic centimeters, it follows that the average capacity of the skulls of the well-known or eminent men surpasses by almost as much that of the Parisians as the skull volume of the latter surpasses the cranial capacity of the negroes. ...

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