RECORD: Fowler, L. N. 1880. [Charles Darwin. A phrenological delineation, with portrait]. Phrenological Magazine, vol. 1 (April): 89-92.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by Christine Chua and edited by John van Wyhe. 7.2021. RN1

NOTE: See the record for this item in the Freeman Bibliographical Database by entering its Identifier here. See van Wyhe, John, 1999-. The History of phrenology on the web.

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To say that Mr. Darwin is a remarkable man, is only saying what everybody knows. It is also known that he descended from a family of note, his father being a man of talent.

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Mr. Darwin has a remarkable organisation. He has great constitutional power. This combination of physical powers favours great activity and endurance. His vital power is sufficient to generate all the force that is necessary for an active, energetic life; but he has no surplus of vitality, probably because he is disposed to lead an active life. Besides, he has so much bone, muscle, and nerve power, that he is disposed to use up his vital power as fast as he generates it. He would be one of the most unhappy of men if he were so situated that he could not be employed. He is peculiarly organised both in body and mind. He is not smoothly, evenly, and harmoniously developed, but has many very strong points, and some weak ones.

According to the laws of nature, there must be a peculiar and striking mental manifestation where there is an uneven physical structure, especially if the brain be unevenly developed. The shape of his brain is most peculiar, more so than that of any other distinguished man in England. Some of the phrenological developments are so very large as to make other organs appear smaller than they really are, compared with the same organs in other men. His head indicates four marked mental peculiarities. That which first strikes the eye is the mountain of Firmness over the ears, in front of the crown of the head. Few men measure so much from one ear over to the other, according to the size of the head, as he does. According to phrenology he ought to be very tenacious, determined, and persevering, and incapable of being turned from his purpose. He would pursue an object to the ends of the earth rather than not have it. Difficulties and opposition would only make him all the more determined. Such firmness stops at nothing short of accomplishing its ends.

He would exercise this faculty along with his other stronger faculties, one of which is Self-esteem. This faculty gives him self-reliance, individuality of opinion and character, and a desire to have his own way and pursue his own course. Such a man would think for himself and be satisfied with his own opinion. He would not compromise in order to please, or because he placed a higher value on the opinion of others. Nothing but undeniable facts would make him swerve one iota from his preconceived opinions.

His very large Firmness and Self-esteem united give him an individuality of character few men possess. They make him thoroughly satisfied with his own course arid investigations and enable him willingly to take the consequences of his own opinions. If his views differed from all the rest of mankind,

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and he knew that they would make an entire revolution of opinion in the world, he would not alter his course one whit; but would, like Senator Benton of the U.S.A., say, "Solitary and alone have I set this ball in motion." It is the most uncompromising, self-relying, independent cast of mind, as indicated by organisation, that I have seen. Fashion, custom, public opinion, formalities, and flatteries he cares very little about, and is not influenced by them. It is possible for his large Firmness and Self-esteem to bias him too much, and make him too contented to see only through his own mediums of investigation, and not be sufficiently influenced by the investigations and opinions of others.

These two great powers of his mind, acting with his very large perceptive faculties, make him an indefatigable student of nature. His eyes are everything to him, for he has an insatiable desire to see everything that is seeable.

Elihu Burritt was almost the only man who approached him as student of nature;. Mr. Darwin has all the perceptive faculties-very large, and their action give him a very great range of observation, and enable him to become acquainted with all sides and departments of nature. With such powers he has a curiosity to open every book of nature and know something of every phase of life. It is very seldom that any one man has all the knowing, observing powers so large as he has. As a traveller he would see hundreds of things on the same road that others would not. One of the largest of his perceptive organs is Order, which gives system, method, power of arrangement, and the disposition to classify. Hence, he sees everything with a classifying eye, and is disposed to make the most-of his observations. All orders and arrangements of nature he would be quick to see. In a trip for the purpose of research, he would be able, on his return, to write more books and to deal with a greater variety of subjects than most men. He has a special aptitude for the study of botany, being not only very precise and definite in his observations, but remembering all he sees. He can also describe accurately years afterwards what he has seen. His knowledge is superior to his power of expressing it in words. Hence he can express himself more fully in writing than in speaking. His memory of all that he sees-of places, of associations, and of the relation and position of one thing to another -is good.

It will be more easy for him to acquire knowledge and gather facts than to weave a philosophy or theory out of them. He has an almost purely scientific, fact-gathering mind, Like Agassiz, he is a student of nature, only more so. Few men could cover a wider field of science than he.

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Mr. Darwin has scope of mind and a fair amount of imagination and sense of perfection. The restraining powers of his mind are not great. He is prompt and off-hand, and acts on the spur of the moment. Such a form of brain is liable to be hasty in drawing conclusions and in deciding upon a course of action.

He has a physical and mental organisation that indicates great energy and industry; he labours with a definite object in view, and pursues that object with a single and unwavering purpose, as though his life and salvation depended upon it.

With his cast of mind he will not be liable to trouble himself about theology, doctrines, ceremonies, or any of the religious machinery of the day. He would not be likely to concern himself much about remote consequences that had their foundation in faith. He acts upon the principle that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." He is disposed to teach but not to preach, and would be disinclined to join societies and associations for any other purpose than the investigation of science or the promotion of knowledge.

According to his phrenological developments, then, he should be known for possessing very great firmness, perseverance and tenacity of mind; for his great self-reliance, independence, and individuality of character and opinion; for his remarkable powers of observation and ability to acquire knowledge from the external world; for his talent to arrange and systematise his knowledge, and put in definite form the facts he has acquired; and for possessing more than ordinary industry, force of character, and activity of minds well as for ambition and general sensitiveness of mind, and the desire to act in strict accordance with his notions of right and duty.

Altogether it is one of the most remarkable heads to be found, and it ought to be a decided proof for or against the science of phrenology.


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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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