The Lavery Electric Automatic Phrenometer whirrs into action, August 1907.  It supposedly measured the activity of the brain, but in actuality it studied the bumps on one’s head with hopes to gain insight about their personality.  This is the portable version.  (from Getty Images’ book “Decades of the 20th Century–1900s” by Nick Yapp, scanned by WeirdVintage)


L.A. Vaught - Phrenology Diagrams, “Practical Character Reader”, 1902.

So You’re Going to Eat a Brain…

The human brain is an extremely nutrient-dense food, but not an easy one to plan a balanced diet around. Let’s say you have a smallish but healthy adult male. Their brain is probably around 1300 cubic centimeters (and with its density, its volume is directly proportional to its weight of 1300 grams).

Like most of the body, the brain is primarily water. In a healthy adult, it’s about 77% H2O.

Of the remaining 23%, the nutrient breakdown is as follows:

11% fat = 143 gm fat - 143gm * 9 Cal/gm = 1287 Cal

8% protein = 104 gm protein - 104 * 4 Cal/gm = 416 Cal

1% carbohydrate = 13 gm carbohydrates - 13 * 4 = 52 Cal

In total, a human brain contains between 1700 and 2100 calories, depending upon if the dura mater is consumed (dura not included in above calculations).

Because of the density of neurons in the human brain, we have a lower percentage of our brain dedicated to myelination, which is extremely cholesterol-rich.

However, while we have a lower percentage of cholesterol per volume than beef or pork brain, it’s still extremely high. One human brain would yield approximately 38,000 mg of cholesterol, or about 12,600% your recommended daily intake.

The brain is also a source of incurable diseases caused by prions, known as the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Prions are extremely heat-resistant so even if you cook your brains, that’s no guarantee that you won’t contract a condition such as Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease or kuru.

These conditions are extremely rare, however, so I’d be more concerned about your cholesterol intake (and maybe the fact that you’re eating a human brain), first.

Traité de phrénologie humaine et comparée. Joseph Vimont, 1832-1835.

Brain Facts and Figures

Astro-Phrenological chart, from "The magic of the cards: Giving the mystic meaning of these wonderful and ancient emblems in their relationship to the heavenly bodies, under all conditions; with rules and processes for reading or delineating the emblems" by Olney H. Richmond, 1919.

Phrenology is a process that involves observing and/or feeling the skull to determine an individual’s psychological attributes. Franz Joseph Gall believed that the brain was made up of 27 individual organs that determined personality, the first 19 of these ‘organs’ he believed to exist in other animal species. Phrenologists would run their fingertips and palms over the skulls of their patients to feel for enlargements or indentations. The phrenologist would often take measurements with a tape measure of the overall head size. The phrenologists put emphasis on using drawings of individuals with particular traits, to determine the character of the person and thus many phrenology books show pictures of subjects. From absolute and relative sizes of the skull the phrenologist would assess the character and temperament of the patient.


Have you considered the possibility that your best friend, neighbor, room mate, sibling or dear old parents might slip suddenly towards the macabre? Try your hand at the whimsical practice of super-villain phrenology; it’s our best testing method aside from testing their blood for phlogiston…

You will need access to a printing mechanism, shears, some adhesive paste and 5 uninterrupted minutes. I wish you the best of luck.

Thomas H. Burgoyne - Astro-Phrenological Chart showing the General Planetary Influence Upon the Human Brain, “The Light of Egypt; or the Science of the Soul and the Stars”, 1963.

Saturn -  Saturn governs the activities of the reflective, meditative and the purely selfish sentiments, such as comparison, causality, secrecy, covetousness and acquisitiveness.
Jupiter -  Jupiter governs those activities which, in their expression, show to us the truly noble and generous side of human nature, such as benevolence, veneration, spirituality and hope.
Mars - Mars has chief rule of those activities which generally express themselves as selfishly aggressive. Properly, they are the passions which reveal to us the animal which resides in an active or semi-passive state, within each human soul, upon the material plane of external life. They are known as alimentiveness, destructiveness, combativeness, and the sexual propensities. To these may be added vitativeness and construction.
Sun - The Sun has the chief control of those organs whose activities
express themselves in man’s higher nature as the “Lord” of material creation. They comprise the commanding and dignified elements within us, such as firmness, conscientiousness, pride, approbativeness, and self-esteem.
Venus - Venus governs those faculties whose activities express themselves as friendship, mirthfulness and conjugality. It also governs the organs of inhabitiveness and those which tend to form agreeable society.
Mercury - Mercury, in addition to being the general messenger of the gods, rules those faculties whose activities are purely intellectual and mechanical, such as eventuality, individuality, size, form, weight, color, order, calculation and language.
Moon - The Moon governs those organs whose activities are termed the semi-intellectual qualities. They are very desirable expressions of character, like time, tune, ideality and sublimity. The Moon also has influence over the domestic qualities.

DIY Phrenology Head Ornament or Pin Cushion Tutorial and Printables from The Graphics Fairy. The printables are reversed so you can transfer them to anything (and if you have a photo editing program you can create your own phrenology head “categories”). Also, Citra-solv is used as the transfer agent - a non toxic cleaning agent that gives you a certain softness to your design. You can also use tee shirt transfer paper. First seen at Make here.