Dr. David Reese and the Three Errors of Phrenology: Religion, Anatomy, and Moral Insanity
Today, phrenology is a mostly-forgotten and thoroughly medically disgraced theory of human behavior. Yet, in its mid-nineteenth century heyday, it not only claimed to explain one’s personality based on the size of the bumps on one’s head but also (scarily) attempted to push prison reform in a less punitive direction. Somewhat surprisingly, as phrenology crossed the Atlantic in the 1820s, a number of doctors, professors, and ordinary citizens accepted and promoted its rather startling claims. At the same time, traditionalists response is exemplifies by Dr. David M. Reese, a highly regarded physician in Manhattan who opposed its attack on (mainly evangelical regarded physician in Manhattan who opposed its attack on (mainly evangelical and specifically Methodist) Christianity, exposed its non-medical understanding of anatomy, ridiculed its belief in “moral insanity” and disputed the idea of religiously-induced insanity which accompanied outbreaks of revivalism.
"Dr. David Reese and the Three Errors of Phrenology: Religion, Anatomy, and Moral Insanity,"
The Asbury Theological Journal:
1, p. 183-209.
Available at: https://place.asburyseminary.edu/asburyjournal/vol78/iss1/11
Biblical Studies Commons, Christian Denominations and Sects Commons, Missions and World Christianity Commons