visit functions of the brain

           The Functions of the Brain: Gall to Ferrier (1808-1886)

                             By Robert M. Young*

THE  BIOLOGICAL  SCIENCES and  particularly  psychology have  been made  the
wastebasket of the scientific revolution. In his classical discussion of The
Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science, E. A. Burtt referred to
the concept of mind as a convenient receptacle for the refuse, the chips and
whittlings  of  science,  rather   than  a  possible  object  of  scientific
knowledge.l  A. G.  A. Balz made  the same point  in his  Cartesian Studies,
where he  noted that psychology "had to be whatever  the new physics and the
related metaphysics permitted it  to be."2 A diagnosis of the limitations of
the explanatory model of the scientific revolution has been made many times.
The  writings of  Burtt  and of  A. N.  Whitehead  are but  two  examples of
penetrating  discussions  of  the  difficulties involved  in  attempting  to
include  biology, psychology,  and  the social  sciences in  the explanatory
paradigm of the physical sciences.3 The prescriptions provided by these same
authors  show just  how  far we  are from  providing  an alternative.  It is
arguable that  a pre requisite to useful  reconstructive work to repair what
Burtt  called "a  rather radical  piece of  cosmic surgery" 4 is at  least a
generation of  careful historical research. 5 In spite of  Edwin G. Boring's
admirable pioneer studies, this work has not yet begun.6

Speaking  of the  seventeenth-century metaphysician-scientists,  Burtt asks,

          Did  it never  cross  their minds  that sooner  or later
          people  would  appear  who  craved verifiable  knowledge
          about mind in the same way they craved it about physical
          events,  and  who  might  reasonably curse  their  elder
          scientific brethren  for buying easier  success in their
          own enterprise by throwing extra handicaps in the way of
          their successors in social science?7

Cartesian  dualism  and  the doctrine  of  primary  and secondary  qualities
enabled  the physical  sciences  to develop,  but this  was achieved  at the
expense of  the biological and behavioral sciences.  The present study is an
attempt to trace some of the im-


* Whipple Science Museum, University of Cambridge. (For current address, see
end of article.)

1 E. A.  Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science (2nd
ed., London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1932), p. 319.

2 A. G. A. Balz, Cartesian Studies (New York Columbia Univ. Press, 1951), p.

3 Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (Cambridge: Cambridge
Univ. Press, 1925), Chs. 3, 6, 9.

4 Burtt, Metaphysical Foundations, p 302.

5 See my essay  review on "Philosophy of Mind and Related Issues" in British
Journal for the Philosophy of Science 1967 18: 325 330.

6  Cf.  Robert  M. Young,  "Scholarship and  the History of  the Behavioural
Sciences," History of Science, 1966, 5: 1-51.

7 Burtt, Metaphysical Foundations, pp. 31 319.

plications of  this world  view in the scientific  writings of psychologists
and  neurophysiologists in  the  nineteenth century.  This topic  was chosen
because the relations among brain, mind, and behavior seem to be the obvious
and crucial  area for investigating the  limitations of Cartesian dualism as
applied to  the biological sciences. It  seems clear at the  outset that the
major difficulty of those  who did crave verifiable knowledge about the mind
was that they were  very slow and timid about cursing their elder scientific
brethren. By  Cartesian dualism is  meant, of course, the  conception of two
ontological substances:  matter, which is extended,  divisible, passive, and
law-like;  and mind,  which  is unextended,  indivisible, active,  and free.
These substances  were defined in  such a way that  any relationship between
them  seemed  impossible  in a  metaphysical  sense.  The psychologists  and
physiologists  were  left with  the  problem of  explaining  how,  in fact,
impressions on the sense organs caused ideas, and thoughts caused movements,
that is, how interaction  occurred when it was metaphysically inconceivable.

Mind-body dualism played an important part in the period when attempts began
to  be made  to apply  the categories of  science to  the study of  mind and
brain.  If  attention  is restricted  to  empirical  investigation of  these
issues, one  must begin  in the nineteenth  century, with the  work of Franz
Joseph  Gall  (1758-1828).  After  his  doctrine has  been  considered,  its
relations  with  three  other   traditions  will  be  outlined:  first,  the
association  psychology;  second,  the  application  of  the  categories  of
sensation and  motion to  progressively higher parts of  the nervous system;
third,  a  changing context  for  psychology, from  a primarily  philosophic
approach  within the  static  framework of  the great  chain  of being  to a
biological approach based on the dynamics of evolutionary change. Thus, when
the psychological principle of  association was combined with the physiology
of   sensation   and   motion    and   integrated   into   a   sensory-motor
psychophysiology, this unified doctrine was almost immediately reinterpreted
in terms of the  theory of evolution as applied to mind and brain and to the
relations between organisms and their environments. The body of the paper is
concerned with a closely interrelated set of influences extending from early
empirical  studies on mind  and brain  to the establishment  of experimental
research on this topic. My aim is to suggest that when the study of the mind
came  to  be  considered in  physiological  and  biological terms,  powerful
philosophic  constraints   were  at  work  which   narrowed  the  issue  and
impoverished the study of the mental functions of human and other organisms.

These developments occurred in  the course of debates about the principle of
cerebral localization,  which  may be defined  as the doctrine  that various
parts  of  the  brain  have  relatively  distinct  mental,  behavioral,  and
physiological  functions. For  example,  it is  generally believed  that the
forebrain subserves intellectual functions, that just behind that is an area
for the control of  muscular movements, and that beneath the motor areas are
a  number  of structures  which  regulate  metabolic functions.  Speculative
localizations of functions date from Herophilus and Galen, that is, from the
beginnings  of   anatomy  and   physiology.  Various  schemes   of  cerebral
localization were  proposed before  the nineteenth century;  for example, in
the  sixteenth  century  Gregor  Reisch  localized  sensation,  imagination,
reasoning, and  memory in the ventricles of the  brain.8 After attention was
shifted from the ventricles (and the associated pneumatic physiology) to the
solid parts of the brain, the same faculties were variously localized.9


8 H. W. Magoun,  "Early Development Ideas Relating the Mind with the Brain,"
in G.  E. W.  Wolstenholme and C.  M. O'Connor, eds.,  Neurological Basis of
Behaviour (London: Churchill, 1958), p. 16.

9 A.  Macalister, "Phrenology,"  in The  Encyclopaedia Britannica  (9th ed.,
Edinburgh: Black,  1885), Vol. XVIII,  pp. 842-849; Jules Soury,  Le Système
nerveux central:  structure et fonctions: histoire  critique des théories et
des doctrines  (Paris: Carre &  Naud, 1899), Vol. I; F.  N. L. Poynter, ed.,
The  History and  Philosophy of  Knowledge of  the Brain  and Its  Functions
(Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1958).


The work of Franz  Joseph Gall provides the first empirical approach both to
the nature  of the  faculties and to  their localizations.10  The prevailing
view  just before  Gall  began his  researches can  be gathered  from George
Prochaska's  Dissertation on the Functions of  the Nervous System, published
in Vienna  in 1784, twelve years before Gall  took his medical degree there.
Prochaska  argued that  cerebral localization  was probably valid,  that the
relevant  faculties  were  the  understanding, the  will,  imagination,  and
memory, but  that "the  conjectures by which  eminent men have  attempted to
determine these are extremely  improbable, and that department of physiology
is  as obscure  now as  ever it was;...'' 1l It  is noteworthy that  in 1799
Bichat  still maintained  confidently  that the  brain was  the seat  of the
intellect but  not of the passions. 12 Gall insisted that  the brain was the
physiological basis of all mental functions.

Gall's ideas  developed from childhood observations  of his playmates. Those
who could  memorize better  than he, had bulging  eyes.l3 This  was merely a
physiognomical  correlation,  with  no  apparent physiological  basis.  Gall
extended the correlation in two ways. First, he based it on a doctrine about
the brain: bulging eyes were caused by a large underlying brain area for the
faculty of verbal memory.14 Second, he argued that this faculty was innate -
thus  opposing  the  prevailing  sensationalism of  the   idéologues. 15  He
generalized these  points to argue that  a science of human  nature could be
founded on four types of variables:

      1                    2                    3                     4
  STRIKING    implies   FACULTY    implies   CORTICAL   implies   CRANIAL
  BEHAVIOUR     »»                   »»       ORGAN       ««     PROMINENCE
                ««                   ««                   »»
              causes               causes               causes

  (talent,                                  (activity               (size
 propensity,            (innate               varies             varies with
   mania)              instinct)            with size)           underlying


lO  Francois Joseph  Gall and J.  C. Spurzheim,  Anatomie et  physiologie du
système  nerveux   en  général  et  du   cerveau  en  particulier  avec  des
observations  sur  la  possibilité  de  reconnaître  plusieurs  dispositions
intellectuelles et morales de l'homme et des animaux par la configuration de
leurs têtes, 4 vols., with an atlas of 100 engraved plates. (Paris: Schoell,
1810-1819).  (Gall is  sole  author of  Vols. III  and  IV.) Gall,   Sur les
fonctions du cerveau et  sur celle de chacune de ses parties 6 vols. (Paris:
Ballière, 1822-1825).  Gall, On the  Functions of the Brain  and Each of Its
Parts: With  Observations on  the Possibility of  Determining the Instincts,
Propensities and Talents, or  the Moral and Intellectual Dispositions of Men
and Animals, by the  Configuration of the Head, trans, Winslow Lewis, Jr., 6
vols. (Boston: Marsh, Capen & Lyon, 1835). Gall, et al., On the Functions of
the  Cerebellum by  Drs  Gall, Vimont,  and Broussais,  trans.  George Combe
(Edinburgh: Maclachlan & Stewart, 1838).

1l George Prochaska,  A Dissertation on the Functions of the Nervous System,
trans. Thomas Laycock (London: Sydenham Society, 1851), pp. 446, 447.

12 Xavier Bichat, Physiological Researches on Life and Death, trans. F. Gold
(London: Longmans, n.d.), pp. 62, 252.

13 Gall, On the Functions of the Brain, Vol. I, pp. 57-58.

14 Ibid., p. 59.

15  Ibid.,  pp. 80-83, 95-171.  See also Pierre  J. C. Cabanis,  Rapports du
physique et du moral  de l'homme, 2 vols. (2nd ed., Paris: Crapart, Caille &
Ravier, 1805); François Picavet, Les Idéologues (Paris: Alcan, 1891); George
Rosen, "The  Philosophy of Ideology and the  Emergence of Modern Medicine in
France,"  Bulletin of the  History of Medicine,  1946, 20  : 328-339; George
Boas,  French Philosophies of the Romantic  Period (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins
Press, 1925), Chs. 1  and 2; Madison Bentley, "The Psychological Antecedents
of Phrenology,"  Psychological Monographs, 1916,  21: 102-115; Owsei Temkin,
"The Philosophical  Background of Magendie's Physiology,"  Bull. Hist. Med.,
1946, 20:  10-35; Temkin, "Gall and the Phrenological Movement," Bull. Hist.
Med., 1947,  21: 275-321 (on the idéologues, see esp. pp. 289-299). Temkin's
article on Gall is the best secondary source available on this subject.


Given  this paradigm,  Gall  argued that  the then-prevailing  categories of
interpretation  - intelligence,  reason, will,  and so  forth -  were wholly
inadequate to  account for the obvious  behavioral differences among species
and  individuals.l6  Where these  categories stressed the  relations between
minds and objects for knowledge, Gall emphasized the adaptation of organisms
to their  environments.17 As  he put it, "every  hypothesis which renders no
reason for  the daily phenomena which  the state of health  and the state of
disease offer us, is necessarily false.''l8 He argued that "the most sublime
intelligence will never be able to find in a closet, what exists only in the
vast  field of  nature.''l9  The implication  was that  psychology is  not a
branch of  epistemology, but of  general biology, and he  devoted himself to
making comparisons  among the striking talents  of men, the different habits
and abilities  of different species, and the  compilation of a truly natural
classification of functions.

Gall's findings and his  influence played a seminal role in neuroanatomy and
in   the   development  of   the   concept  of   cerebral  localization   in
neurophysiology and  neurology,20 but in  his own work it  was undermined by
his belief in "bumps"  as accurate reflections of the relative size of areas
of the underlying brain.  This is only one example of a principle which Gall
stated but which he was unable to carry out in practice. He established once
and for  all that the brain is the organ of  the mind. Even Pierre Flourens,
Gall's arch-opponent, granted this.2l His naturalist viewpoint, coupled with
his  critique  of  philosophical psychology,  played  an  important part  in
removing  psychology  from  philosophy  and  placing  it  in  biology.  Most
important,  however,  was  his  argument  that  neither  the  study  of  the
physiology  of the  brain nor  the introspective  study of mind  would alone
provide  adequate  categories  for  interpreting  experience  and  behavior.
Comparative  studies  of  animals  and  observation  of  man  in  society  -
particularly  the extraordinary  (geniuses  and maniacs)-were  the essential
prerequisites for arriving at  a psychology which might explain mind, brain,
and behavior.22

There is  no reason to dwell  on Gall's methods or  the final formulation of
his  psychology.23  One concludes from  a study  of his large  compendium of
evidence for his faculties  that the phrenological method is a textbook case
in support  of a falsificationist  view of scientific method,  for he sought
confirmations and  failed to take exceptions  seriously enough.24 One should
emphasize the value of his naturalist,


16 Gall, On the Functions of the Brain, Vol. I., pp. 88-89.

17 Ibid., p. 84.

18 Ibid., Vol. V, p. 251

19 Ibid., p. 317.

20 Erwin H. Ackerknecht and Henri V. Vallois, Franz Joseph Gall, Inventor of
Phrenology and  His Collection, Wisconsin Studies  in Medical History, No. 1
(Madison: Univ. Wisconsin Press,  1956), pp. 13-27. For Gall's contributions
to neuroanatomy,  see Owsei  Temkin, "Remarks on  the Neurology of  Gall and
Spurzheim," in E. A.  Underwood, ed., Science, Medicine and History (London:
Oxford Univ. Press, 1953), Vol. II, pp. 282-289.

21 Pierre Flourens, Phrenology Examined, trans. Charles Meigs (Philadelphia:
Hogan & Thompson, 1846), pp. 27-28.

22 Gall, On  the Functions of the Brain, Vol. III,  pp. 133-135; Vol. IV, p.

23 Gall discusses his methods in ibid., Vol. III, pp. 108-130.

24 This  article is  primarily concerned with  the ways in  which phrenology
influenced developments in psychology and the study of the nervous system. A
most  interesting study  of  the parallel  development of  the phrenological
movement in Britain, France, and America in this same period could provide a
counterpoint  to my  rather  Whiggish emphasis  on the  "winning  side." For
criticism  of  the  cranioscopic  method  see Richard  Chevenix,  "Gall  and
Spurzheim-Phrenology,"  Foreign  Quarterly Review,  1828,  2:  1-52; William
Carpenter,  "Noble on  the Brain  and Its  Physiology," British  and Foreign
Medical  Review,  1846 22 : 488-544 (esp.  pp. 520  ff. ); George  H. Lewes,
"Phrenology in  France," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine,  1857, 32: 665-674.
The  reactions of  phrenologists  to criticism  can be  judged  from reading
almost  any article  in  the  Phrenological Journal.  See  also the  list of
phrenological controversies appended to Gall et al., On the Functions of the
Cerebellum.   The history  of  scientific physiology  and psychology  parted
company with  the practice of phrenological  delineation (popularly known as
"head-reading") over the legitimacy  of the cranioscopic method. The history
of applied  phrenology formed  an important part  of the development  of the
scientific study  of man by virtue of its  wide popularity and its influence
on  Robert Chambers,  A. R.  Wallace, and  Auguste Comte, among  others. The
American  movement  has  received  some  attention.  See  John  D.  Davies,
Phrenology Fad and Science: a 19th Century American Crusade (New Haven: Yale
Univ. Press,  1955); David  Bakan, "The Influence of  Phrenology on American
Psychology,"  Journal  of  the History  of Behavioral  Sciences,  1966,   2:
200-220.  The British  movement would  repay closer  study. There is  a very
large literature,  and the  influence of phrenology  on evolutionary theory,
various  forms  of  social  reform,  and  the behavioral  sciences  is  very
interesting  indeed. In 1820  George Combe  helped to found  a phrenological
society in  Edinburgh and became its first president.  By 1832 there were 29
phrenological  societies  in Britain  and  several journals  in Britain  and
America.  Their  publications provide  a  most  illuminating perspective  on
contemporary scientific developments.  The British Phrenological Society was
incorporated in  1899. It continued to publish  a newsletter until 1966. The
Society  functioned  until  February  1967,  when  it  went  into  voluntary
liquidation. Its past president, Miss Frances Hedderly, F.B.P.S., has guided
its affairs  over the last few  years and is now  convinced that the work of
the  Society  is  completed.  Its valuable  library  has  been deposited  at
University College, London, and at the Whipple Science Museum, Cambridge. My
research has  been aided in many  ways by the co-operation  of Miss Hedderly
and other members of the Society.


biological  approach in psychology  but grant  that the conclusions  he drew
invited  the criticism which  has been  earned by all  faculty psychologies:
they substitute  classification for explanation.25  To explain that a mother
loves her  child because she has  a large cerebral organ  producing a strong
faculty of "philoprogenitiveness" is on a level with Molière's physician who
explained the action of opium by invoking a "soporific virtue."26

Gall's  anecdotal and  correlative  methods and  his faculty  psychology can
serve only  as object lessons  in the misuse of  scientific method. However,
the  obvious alternative -  experiment -  had failed to  produce significant
advances in  understanding the  functions of the nervous  system until 1822,
six years  before Gall died.27  In his critique of  the experimental method,
Gall  pointed  out that  it  was difficult  to  repeat findings  or to  make
inferences  based upon, for  instance, the  sexual performance of  an animal
which  was rapidly  ceasing  to live  from uncontrollable  loss of  blood.28
However,   these  objections   were  rapidly   overcome  by   technical  and
methodological developments,  and one's claims for  Gall are confined to the


25  For criticisms of  faculty psychologies  see Carroll C.  Pratt, "Faculty
Psychology "  Psychological Review, 1929, 36:  142-17; George F. Stout, "The
Herbartian  Psychology,"  Mind,  1888,  13:  321-338 and 473-498  and Stout,
"Herbart Compared  with English Psychologists and with Beneke,"  Mind, 1889,
14 : 1-26;  Charles  E. Spearman,  The  Abilities of  Man: Their  Nature and
Measurement (London: Macmillan, 1927), pp. 28 ff.

26 Cf.  Galen: ". . . so long as we  are ignorant of the true essence of the
cause which  is operating, we call it a faculty."  On the Natural Faculties,
trans. A. J. Brock (London: Heinemann, 1963), p. 17.

27  Pierre Flourens,  Recherches  experimentales sur  les propriétés  et les
fonctions  du système  nerveux dans  les animaux  vertebrés  (Paris: Crevot,
1824); J.  M. D. Olmsted François Magendie  (New York: Schuman's, 1944), Ch.

28 Gall,  On  the Functions of the  Brain Vol. III,  p. 257. Cf.  ibid., pp.
97-100 and 240-263; Vol. VI, pp. 153 and 239.


mentioned  in   the  preceding  paragraphs  and   his  prediction  that  the
physiological  experimenters  ran  the danger  of  reducing  mental life  to
sensibility, irritability,  and muscular  motion.29 It  will become apparent
that he was most prescient.

In the  experimental work which  began to give significant  results in 1822,
the most  important early sensory-motor physiologists  were Pierre Flourens,
François  Magendie, and  Johannes Müller.  Their methods  and some  of their
findings were very elegant indeed, but their analyses of the "organ of mind"
were  highly conditioned  by  their philosophical  preconceptions. Flourens'
careful methods of excision, control of bleeding, and observation of animals
over long periods led  to his classical findings on the regulatory functions
of  the  cerebellum  in  muscular  co-ordination  and his  location  of  the
respiratory  center in  the  medulla oblongata. 30 Magendie  demonstrated by
experiment that  the anterior spinal  nerve roots are motor  in function and
the  posterior  roots  are sensory.  (The  functional  division between  the
anterior  and  posterior  spinal  nerve  roots  came  to  be  known  as  the
Bell-Magendie  law, since  Bell  reached the  same conclusion  on anatomical
grounds.31) Johannes  Müller confirmed and extended these findings, and they
were widely read in his classical Handbuch.32 In the period between 1822 and
1845  these three  men  were the  leaders in  establishing  the experimental
method   in  neurophysiology.   Their  work   was  a  continuation   of  the
investigation of physiological properties which was begun by Francis Glisson
and made  experimental by Albrecht  von Haller.33 The  discoveries which von
Haller had made about  the properties of the peripheral nerves they extended
to the  spinal cord and  some higher centers. Furthermore,  they adopted the
paradigm  of  explanation  -   sensation  and  motion  -  which  was  to  be
progressively used to account for all nervous functions.

It  is  when one  turns  to  the brain  that  the  influence of  philosophic
constraints on their approach becomes apparent. Flourens' experiments on the
brain  involved  successive  slicing   of  the  cortical  substance  without
reference to  the alleged cortical organs.  Even if Gall's localizations had
been  true,  this  technique  could only  lead  to  successive  loss of  all
functions.34  Flourens concluded that the cortex acts  as one organ and that
all its supposed faculties  are indivisible. Thus the lower centers were for
sensation and  motion, while  the cortex was  a unitary organ  for a unitary
mind.35 The basis of this view is clear from the dedication of his Examen de
la  Phrénologie: "I  frequently quote  Descartes: I  even go further;  for I
dedicate  my  work to  his  memory.  I am  writing  in opposition  to a  bad
philosophy [Gall's],  while I  am endeavoring to  recall a sound  one."36 It
should be stressed that while Flourens'


29 ibid., Vol. VI, pp. 160-161; cf. Vol. III, p. 245.

30 Flourens, Recherches expérimentales (2nd ed., Paris: Ballière, 1842). See
also  J. M.  D.  Olmsted, "Pierre  Flourens,"  in Underwood,  ed.,  Science,
Medicine and History, Vol. II, pp. 290-302.

31 Olmsted, François Magendie, Ch. 7.

32 Johannes Müller, Elements of Physiology, trans. W. Baly, 2 vols. (London:
Taylor  & Walton,  1838-1842), Vol.  I, pp.  640-646;  cf.  John T. Merz,  A
History of  European Thought in the Nineteenth  Century, 4 vols. (Edinburgh:
Blackwood, 1904-1912), Vol. II, p. 384n.

33 Albrecht von Haller,  "A Dissertation on the Sensible and Irritable Parts
of  Animals" (1735),  trans. M.  Tissot, reprinted  with an  introduction by
Owsei Temkin, Bull. Hist. Med., 1936, 4: 651-699. Cf. Temkin, "The Classical
Roots of  Glisson's Doctrine  of Irritation,"  Bull. Hist. Med.,  1964,  37:
297-328. On  the relationship  between the concepts of  Glisson, Haller, and
Flourens, see  Anon., "Recent  Discoveries on the Physiology  of the Nervous
System," Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, 1824, 21: 141-159, p. 144.

34 Gall,  On the Functions  of the Brain Vol. VI,  pp. 164-166; Vol. III, p.

35  Flourens,  Recherches  experimetales   (1842), pp.  xvi,  97, 208,  235,

36 Flourens, Phrenology  Examined, p. xiv; cf. pp. xi, xiii, 38, 45, 53, 57,


findings were not inconsistent  with his interpretation of them, some of his
extreme claims - for example, that the cortex is not the origin of any nerve
-  cannot be  reconciled with  the state  of contemporary  knowledge without
allowing  a  large  role  for  preconception. 37   In the  light  of  Gall's
injunctions it is interesting to note that neither Flourens nor Magendie nor
Müller -  for all  their emphasis on  observation and experiment  - made any
attempt  to determine  the  categories of  function. They  reverted  to such
traditional ones as memory, reason, and will.

Magendie's initial  remarks about  the brain were more  promising: its study
was  a branch of  physiology like the  study of  the functions of  any other
organ.38  However, when he  specified what he meant  by "physiology" in this
context, a hiatus appeared, for the study of the physiology of the brain was
identified as idéologie - the sensationalist analysis of mind which grew out
of  the work of  Locke and Condillac  and was  then represented in  Paris by
Destutt de Tracy and Cabanis.39 These assumptions were, of course, different
from Flourens'  Cartesianism, but one  result was the same:  the analysis of
the  brain was  separated  from that  of the  lower  centers. Will  became a
species  of desire in  the philosophy of  the  idéologues, but  its cerebral
basis was  not directly connected with the cause  of muscular contraction.40
Furthermore,   the   method   used   in  this   supposedly   "physiological"
investigation was introspection.4l

Müller, like  Flourens and Magendie, rejected  cerebral localization and the
categories of Gall and  separated the organs of mind from motor functions.42
As he  put it in his  Handbuch, "The  fibres of all the  motor, cerebral and
spinal nerves  may be imagined as  spread out in the  medulla oblongata, and
exposed to the influence of the will like the keys of a piano-forte." It was
impossible to determine how  an exertion of the will excites these fibres.43

There is  little point in multiplying examples  of this separation except to
emphasise that  it became  the accepted account. The  standard British text,
William  Carpenter's  Principles of  Physiology,  reiterates it  through all
editions, and he expounds it in his other writings right up to and including
his review  of the  experiments of David Ferrier  which decisively disproved
it. 44 The  cortex was  a unitary  organ, "superadded" to  the sensory-motor
centers. The  latter were  said to be  the instruments of the  mind, and the
mind's cortical organ had  no connection with purely excito-motor actions.45
The  motor  aspect of  this  orthodoxy  has been  nicely  summarized by  Sir
Geoffrey Jefferson:

          From Haller  . . . onwards to  the best observer of them
          all,  Flourens, and  on again  to Magendie  and everyone
          else,  all   were  agreed  upon  this,   the  brain  was
          unresponsive except at the  lower and lowest levels. The
          hemispheres were  the seat  of the "will";  they excited
          movements by playing on  these motor mechanisms. But how
          they did so no one knew and no nice man would ask !46


37  Flourens,  Recherches  expérimentales   (1842), pp.  xiii,  19, 22,  50,

38 François  Magendie,  An Elementary Treatise  on Human Physiology,  trans.
John Revere (5th ed., New York: Harper, 1843), p. 146.

39    Ibid.,    p.    147.   See  also   references  cited  above,   n.  l5.

40 Ibid., pp. 151, 243-246, 252-253.

41 Ibid., p. 146.

42  Müller, Elements of  Physiology, Vol. I, pp.  834-838, Vol. II, p. 1345;
Flourens,  Phrenology Examined,  passim; Magendie,  Elementary Treatise,  p.

43 Müller, Elements of Physiology, Vol. II, p. 934.

44 William Carpenter,  Principles of Mental Physiology (London: King, 1874),
pp. 99-100, 715, 719.

45  Carpenter, "Noble  on the Brain"  pp. 5OO,  510-512, 515;  Principles of
Human  Physiology   (5th  ed., Philadelphia:  Blanchard  &  Lea, 1855),  pp.
534-535, 489-490, 497-511.

46 Geoffrey  Jefferson, Selected  Papers (London: Pitman  Medical, 1960), p.


We are left therefore with precise findings about the sensory-motor function
of  the  spinal roots  and  some  higher structures  and an  unphysiological
doctrine about  the cortex.  When science has  an unequivocal theory  in one
area and confusion in another, it is natural that an attempt will be made to
extend the  former to account for  the latter. What was  needed for the full
exploitation  of  the sensory-motor  paradigm  of  Bell and  Magendie was  a
suitable theoretical  context for bringing it  into contact with psychology.

The  theoretical  context  for  sensory-motor  physiology  was  provided  by
Alexander Bain.  Bain was the  heir to a psychological  tradition which grew
out of Locke and  Gay,47 whose anti-Cartesian sensationalism was united with
Newton's  corpuscular  theory  of   matter  to  provide  the  basis  of  the
association  psychology, first  clearly formulated  by David Hartley. 48 The
associationists specified  atomic units for what  Descartes considered to be
indivisible mental substances. They argued that all complex mental phenomena
could be  analyzed into sensations and that  the larger mental elements were
built   up  by   habit   or  repetition   -  the   law  of   association. 49

Association psychologists prior to Bain had seen their work in a philosophic
context. Bain  wrote psychology free  from formal philosophy and  set out to
integrate the  science of mind with physiology. In  the Preface of the first
volume  ( The  Senses  and the  Intellect )  of  his  major  work he  wrote,
"Conceiving that the time has now come when many of the striking discoveries
of the Physiologists relative to the nervous system should find a recognised
place  in the  Science of  Mind, I  have devoted  a separate chapter  to the
Physiology of  the Brain  and Nerves."50  He developed this  approach on the
basis  of an  early  interest in  phrenology before  he  was exposed  to the
influence  of  associationism  through his  relationship  with  John Stuart
Mill. 5l This  mixture of  influences led  him to  stress physiology  but to
abandon the  faculty psychology of  phrenology in favor of  the principle of
association  and  to reduce  the  phrenological faculties  to, for  example,
ocular sensibility. 52 He  first reduced the  numerous faculties to  three -
intellect,  feelings, and  will -  and then  analyzed these  into associated
sensations  and  motions. His  chapter  on  the nervous  system applied  the
sensory-motor paradigm  to subcortical  structures but stopped  short of the
hemispheres.53 Drawing on the work of Todd and Bowman,


47 John Locke added a chapter entitled "Of the Association of Ideas" to Book
2 of the 4th ed. of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (London: Awnsham
&  Churchill  &  Manship,  1690) to  account  for  aberrant, unnatural,  and
habitual  connections between ideas.  The Rev.  John Gay wrote  an anonymous
"Preliminary Dissertation concerning the  Fundamental Principle of Virtue or
Morality" which  was appended to Edmund Law's  translation of William King's
An Essay  on the  Origin of Evil,  2 vols. (2nd  ed., Cambridge: Thurlbourn,
1732). Gay employed the association of ideas and the pleasure-pain principle
to account  for the origin of the moral sense and  all the passions, in lieu
of considering them to be innately given instincts.

48  David  Hartley,  Observations  on  Man, His  Frame,  His  Duty, and  His
Expectations, 2 vols. (London: Leake & Frederick, 1749).

49  For an excellent  contemporary exposition  of associationism, see  J. S.
Mill,   "Bain's  Psychology"   (1859),  reprinted   in    Dissertations  and
Discussions, Vol. III (London: Long mans, 1867), pp. 97-152.

50 Alexander  Bain, The Senses and the Intellect  (London: Parker, 1855), p.
v. 51 Alexander Bain  Autobiography (London: Longmans, 1901), pp. 27-28, 50,
90,  112, 215,  237-238, 259-260;  On the  Study of Character,  Including an
Estimate of  Phrenology (London:  Parker, 1861), esp. pp.  v-vi, 16. Michael
St. John  Packe,  The Life of  John Stuart Mill  (London:  Secker & Warburg,
1954), pp. 289, 271, 291, 359.

52  Bain,  On  the Study  of Character,   pp. 147-150,  155-158, 177;  Mill,
Dissertations  and  Discussions,  Vol.  III,  p.  110;  Th.  Ribot,  English
Psychology trans, J. Fitzgerald (London: King, 1873, p. 198.

53 In  1861 Bain said, "We must not, however,  stop short of the hemispheres
in our  explanation of  the control of  the voluntary muscles ...."  (On the
Study of  Character, p. 153),  but this is the  only passage in his writings
which expresses this view.


he extended  the Bell-Magendie law a  stage higher so that  the thalamus was
the highest  sensory center  and the corpus  striatum the motor  ganglion.54
From the physiological writings of Johannes Müller he adopted an emphasis on
motion  which was  novel for the  associationist tradition, whose  stress on
sensation  had developed naturally  from their  interest in epistemology. 55
This new  emphasis provided  psychology with a  balanced sensory-motor view.
Instead  of  concentrating  on   how  we  come  to  know  through  suffering
experience, Bain inaugurated an interest in behavior which eventually became
the dominant theme in behaviorist psychology - the concept of reinforcement.

In evaluating Bain's systematic  treatises more broadly,56 one must conclude
that  associationism  provided  an  inadequate explanation  of  the  complex
phenomena of emotion, instinct,  and the biological functions which Gall had
stressed.57 Also, while Bain attempted to correlate most of the functions of
the brain with psychological  processes, he left out the cortex and provided
theories which had little contact with general biology.

Where Bain  gave the association psychology  a new emphasis on  motion and a
new  alliance  with  physiology,  Herbert Spencer  provided  it  with a  new
foundation in  evolutionary biology. Like Bain,  Spencer derived his initial
interest in psychology from  phrenology and even wrote several phrenological
articles and designed an instrument for measuring bumps.58 The psychological
portions  of  his  first book,   Social  Statics  (1851),  were  based on  a
phrenological view of man and of adaptation.59 We are fortunate in having an
essay  written in his  phrenological period  and partially revised  after he
came under the influence  of the associationists George Henry Lewes and John
Stuart Mill. 60 One can point with some confidence to  the place in the text
where  his  revision  stopped,  since  the  language  shifts  abruptly  from
associationist terms to phrenological faculties. 61


54  Robert  B.  Todd  and William  Bowman,   The  Physiological Anatomy  and
Physiology of  Man, 2 vols.  (London: Parker, 1845), pp.  350-351; Bain, The
Senses, pp. 40-47, 53, and 3rd ed. (1868), pp. 44-45.

55 Müller,  Elements  of Physiology, Vol.  I, p. 828; Vol.  II, pp. 931-950;
Bain,  The  Senses  (1855), pp.  v-vi, 289;  (1868), pp. 59,  64-73, 290-91,
296-306; cf. Mill, Dissertations and Discussions, Vol. III, p. 121.

56  Bain,  The Senses  (1855); The  Emotions and  the Will  (London: Parker,
1859). 57 Bain's  On the Study of Character was a failure. It went unnoticed
by the  critics and by  Bain's contemporaries. There was  no second edition.
For criticisms of the adequacy of l9th-century associationism for explaining
the  phenomena of  emotions  and personality,  see Mill,   Dissertations and
Discussions, Vol. III,  p. 132; Ribot, English Psychology, p. 327; Gordon W.
Allport, Personality. A Psychological Interpretation (New York: Holt, 1937),
p. 87.

58 Herbert  Spencer, An Autobiography, 2  vols. (London: Williams & Norgate,
1904), Vol.  I, pp. 200-203,  225, 227-228, 246-247, 297,  378-379, 540-543,
The Life and Letters  of Herbert Spencer, ed. David Duncan (London: Methuen,
1908),  p. 40; George  B. Denton,  "Early Psychological Theories  of Herbert
Spencer," American Journal of Psychology 1921, 32: 5-15; Jefferson, Selected
Papers pp. 35-44.

59 Herbert  Spencer, Social Statics  (London: Chapman, 1851),  pp. 5, 19-20,
32-38 75-89, 274, 280, 466.

60  Herbert  Spencer, "The  Philosophy  of  Style," in  Essays:  Scientific,
Political and Speculative,  3 vols. (London: Williams & Norgate, 1901), Vol.
II,  pp. 333-369-  Spencer  Autobiography,  Vol.  I,  pp. 225,  405.  On the
influence  of Lewes  and Mill,  see ibid.,  pp.  378-379, 391-392,  Life and
Letters, pp. 418, 544.

61 The  transition occurs in  Essays, Vol. II, p.  360. The last sentence in
associationist  language  refers  to  "mental  energy" and  "strain  on  the
attention."  The next  sentence  contains the  first mention  of "perceptive
faculties."  The MS in  the British Museum  appears to  be a re-copy  of the
revised  essay and  neither confirms  nor refutes  my reading (MS,  p. 113).


The  development  of Spencer's  theory  of  evolution is  a fascinating  but
complex  story.62 It  grew out of  phrenology, the  study of zoology,  and a
contrary acceptance  of Lamarck derived from  Lyell's supposed refutation of
Lamarck  in the  Principles  of Geology.  Rather  than consider  his general
doctrine  here,  attention  will  be confined  to  its  original context  in
psychology,  that is,  evolutionary associationism.  Spencer argued for  the
continuity  of all mental  phenomena beginning with the  contractions of the
sensitive polyp  and extending  to the forms  of thought. He  also links the
organism  to  the  environment;  psychology  thereby  becomes  a  biological
science, and mind becomes an instrument of adaptation. Learning, in this new
context,  is the  continuous adjustment  of inner  relations in the  mind to
external relations in the environment. If one suspends judgment on Spencer's
"Lamarckian"   mechanism,  the   relationship  between   associationism  and
evolution  by the  inheritance  of acquired  characteristics becomes  one of
simple extension. Habits are built up by the repeated juxtaposition of ideas
in experience, and they are then transmitted as modifications in the nervous
system. The  tabula rasa of the individual is replaced  by that of the race.
This  view  allows  Spencer  to  argue  that the  emotions,  instincts,  and
faculties  can be  accounted  for as  stable phenomena  for  the individual,
though their genesis is still explained by the experience of the species.

It was  on the basis of  these beliefs that Spencer  criticized Bain.63 Bain
had attempted  a natural history of the mind,  but the "nature" he consulted
was the  contents of his own mind - by introspection. 64 Spencer argued that
Bain should have relied instead on comparative and developmental studies and
thereby  become  a  genuine  naturalist.65  In  insisting  on this,  Spencer
challenged a fundamental assumption of those psychologists who believed that
philosophical and  introspective analysis provides  sequences and categories
which can  serve as a natural  classification of mental life  - that what we
can  arrive at  by  examining our  own adult  minds accurately  reflects the
actual  synthesis in  evolution and  in individual  experience.66  Plausible
verbal  analyses   are  replaced  by  biological   observation  and  (later)
experiment.  Having said  this,  however, Spencer  (and those  who followed)
failed to  grasp its implications for psychology:  the search which Gall had
attempted  for  a  genuine naturalism  in  the  categories of  psychological

Horace  W.  Magoun  has  claimed that  there  can  be  no  question of  "the
predominant influence  of Spencer  upon Hughlings Jackson  and, through him,
upon the formation of evolutionary concepts of the organization and function
of the  brain in Western neurological thought."67  For his own part, Jackson
considered his theories to  be merely applications of Spencer's evolutionary
associationism to  the nervous system in  the light of clinical  evidence.68
There were  two other important influences  on Jackson's thinking. The first
was  Bain, whose  motor theory  was used  by Jackson  for a motor  theory of
speech, thus replacing the faculty concept.69 The second was


62 This  paragraph is expanded, with detailed  documentation, in my paper on
"The Development  of Herbert Spencer's Concept  of Evolution," Actes  du XIe
Congrès International  d'Histoire des  Sciences (Warsaw:  Ossolineum, 1967),
Vol. II, pp. 273-278.

63 Herbert  Spencer "Bain on the  Emotions and the Will"  (1860), in Essays,
Vol. I, pp. 241-264.

64 Ibid., pp. 242, 244, 247, 257.

65 Ibid., pp. 249-252.

66 Ibid., pp. 254-256.

67  Horace W.  Magoun, "Darwin  and Concepts  of Brain  Function," in  J. F.
Delafresnaye, ed., Brain  Mechanisms and Learning (Oxford: Blackwell, 1961),
p. 17.

68  Selected Writings of John  Hughlings Jackson, ed.  James Taylor, 2 vols.
(London: Hodder & Stoughton,  1931), Vol. I, pp. 147 n., 238n, 375; Vol. II,
pp. 40n, 42, 45, 80n., 98, 346n., 395, 431-432.

69 Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 167-68, 39, 50-51; Vol. II, pp. 123, 233-234.


an unfairly neglected figure  - Thomas Laycock.70 Just before Spencer worked
out  his theories  on the basis  of evolution,  Laycock (who also  had heavy
debts  to phrenology)  applied  the principle  of continuity  to all  of the
nervous system  (including the cortex) on the  basis of the older philosophy
of  biology, the  great  chain of  being.71  Jackson's  intellectual mentors
provided him with the  best of the old and the new versions of the principle
of continuity as applied to the nervous system.

Four aspects of Jackson's  thinking are important in this context. First, on
the  basis  of the  views  of Spencer  and  Laycock, Jackson  held that  the
interpretation  of the  central  nervous system  in terms  of  sensation and
motion (which began with the Bell-Magendie law) had to extend throughout the
nervous system. As he put it in 1870, "If the doctrine of evolution be true,
all nervous  centres must be  of a sensori-motor constitution." 72 Since the
highest centers  have the  same composition as  the lower, being  made up of
cells and fibres, "It would be marvellous if, at a certain level, whether we
call it one of  evolution or not, there were a sudden change to centres of a
different kind of constitution. Is it not enough difference that the highest
centres  of  the  nervous  system are  greatly  more  complicated  than the
lower?"73 Second, Jackson adopted Spencer's concept of cerebral localization
-  the  only  specific  feature  which  Spencer retained  from  his  earlier
phrenological period.74 Centers  of co-ordination for complex sensations and
motions  were  localized  in  place  of  Gall's  faculties.  Complex  mental
phenomena  were  thus  reduced  to  aggregates  of  sensations  and  motions
paralleled by sets of  fibres and cells.75 Third, Jackson explicitly applied
this view to  the cerebral cortex as a motor organ  and argued against those
who "think  the cerebrum to be likened to  an instrumentalist, and the motor
centres  to an  instrument; one  part .  . .  for ideas,  and the  other for
movements."76  Even  though some of  his writings before  1870 are equivocal
about  the role  of the  cortex in movements, 77 he  did put the  issue more
clearly than anyone else  and ridiculed those who "speak as if at some place
in the  higher parts of the  nervous system we abruptly  cease to have to do
with impressions  and movements,  and begin all  at once to have  to do with
mental states"78 - the view that "physical states in lower centres fine away
into psychical states in higher centres."79


70 Ibid., Vol. 1, pp. ix, 37, 123, 167.

71  Thomas Laycock,  ~Treatise  on the  Nervous Diseases  of Women  (London:
Longmans, 1840);  "On the  Reflex Functions of  the Brain,"  Brit. For. Med.
Rev., 1845,  19: 298-311; "Phrenology," in The Encyclopaedia Britannica (8th
ed., Edinburgh: Black, 1859), Vol. XVII, pp. 560-561; James Crichton Browne,
The  Doctor   Remembers   (London:  Duckworth,   1938),  pp.  40-41;  Young,
"Scholarship," pp. 25-26.

72 Jackson, Selected Writings, Vol. II, p. 63.

73 Ibid.

74 Ibid., pp. 216, 234.

75 Herbert  Spencer, The Principles of  Psychology (London: Longmans, 1855),
pp. 606 611.

76 Jackson,  Selected  Writings, Vol.  I, p. 26n. After  Jackson's ideas had
received experimental  support, he never  tired of quoting this  note in his
later papers, e.g., ibid., pp. 42, 58; Vol. II, pp. 63-64, 67.

77 In  fact, a close study  of his writings before 1870  - when his view was
demonstrated  experimentally -  shows  that he  was less  emphatic  than has
sometimes been  supposed in  applying the hypothesis  that the cortex  was a
motor organ:  the corpus  striatum held his  loyalties as the  primary motor
organ in  spite of striking evidence implicating  the cortex in disorders of
movement.  Ibid., Vol. I,  pp. 27, 38; Vol. II,  pp. 121, 122-123, 127, 216,
233,  239, 240-241,  244. In  1868 he  reported a  case of  "corpus striatum
Epilepsy" which  involved a post-mortem finding of  blood, the bulk of which
"lay  in one  spot over  the frontal  convolutions, and  was so placed  as I
imagined,  to squeeze  the  corpus striatum...."  The discussion  refers all
symptoms  to the  corpus  striatum and  does  not mention  the convolutions
(ibid., Vol. II, p. 218; cf. Vol. 1, p. 9).

78 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 48.

79 Ibid., Vol. II, p. 156.


This  point   was  linked  closely  in  Jackson's   mind  with  a  fourth  -
philosophical -  issue. While his predecessors had  indulged in two sorts of
interactionism between  the unitary mind  and the unitary cortex  on the one
hand and  between the mind  and its sensory-motor instruments  on the other,
Jackson (again  drawing heavily on Spencer)  argued that a clear-cut dualism
should  be maintained without  interaction and  that one should  postulate a
doctrine of  concomitance or psychophysical parallelism.  The nervous system
was  to be  uniformly  sensory-motor, and  its physiological  processes were
paralleled by  ideas of sensation and  movement.80 This assumption  - in the
hands of Freud (who  adopted it from Jackson)81 and of the majority of later
psychologists  - continued  to be  used as  a justification  for ontological
agnosticism about  body and  mind, while they and  the physiologists pursued
separate studies, seeking only occasional specification of what is happening
in the world of matter and motion when something else occurs in the world of
mind. Expressions  of dualism could no longer  find a convenient demarcation
within  the  nervous system.  The "organ of  mind" could  not be held  to be
physically  as  well as  functionally  discontinuous  from the  rest of  the
neuraxis.  The  fundamental separation  of  mind  from body  could still  be
expressed  in  the  form   of  psychophysical  parallelism,  but  there  was
continuity  of structure,  function, and  analytic units within  the nervous
system itself.

Meanwhile,  there were two  findings which  led the sensory-motor  school to
consider cerebral localization with  renewed seriousness. (The term findings
is  used advisedly,  since the interpretations  put on them  were vehemently
rejected by Jackson and Ferrier.)

Paul Broca provided the  first convincing evidence for cerebral localization
in 1861 . His work  was an application of  Gall's localizations. Indeed, the
faculty of  articulate language  had been Gall's first  discovery (the large
flaring eyes which, Gall said, "gave the first impulse to my researches, and
was the occasion of  all my discoveries").82 However, Broca also insisted on
precise study of the brain itself rather than reliance on the measurement of
cranial protuberances. 83 Broca also argued  that speech was an intellectual
faculty,  not  a motor  function. 84  As he  said  in  a significant  aside,
"Everyone knows that the cerebral convolutions are not motor organs."85 Even
though his first case  showed partial paralysis, Broca referred this symptom
to the corpus striatum,  though the patient's speech defect was localized in
the third frontal convolution of the cortex.86


80 Ibid., Vol. I, pp. 49, 52, 52 n., 55; Vol. II, pp. 84-86, 156.

81 Sigmund  Freud,  On Aphasia. A  Critical Study (1891),  trans. E. Stengel
(New York: International Universities Press, 1953), pp. 54-56. This position
was held  consistently throughout Freud's writings,  up to and including his
last  book,  An Outline of  Psychoanalysis  (1940), trans. J.  Strachey (New
York: Norton,  1949), pp. 13, 34.  See also E. Stengel,  "A Re-evaluation of
Freud's  Book    On   Aphasia:   Its  Significance   for  Psycho-analysis,"
International Journal  of Psycho-analysis,  1954, 38:  85-89; Walther Riese,
"Freudian Concepts of Brain  Function and Brain Disease," Journal of Nervous
and Mental Disease, 1958, 127: 287-307.

82 Gall, On  the Functions of the Brain, Vol. V, p. 8. The best treatment of
the history  of research on aphasia in the l9th  century remains Henry Head,
Aphasia and Kindred Disorders of Speech, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ.
Press, 1926), Vol. I, Chs. 1-5.

83 Paul  Broca, "Remarks on the Seat of  the Faculty of Articulate Language"
(1861),  trans.  Gerhard von  Bonin,  Some  Papers  on the  Cerebral Cortex
(Springfield: Thomas 1960), pp. 58-59, 72.

84 Ibid., pp. 54, 57

85 Ibid., p. 70.

86  Ibid.   Broca's researches  on the  seat  of the  faculty  of articulate
language  once again roused  the Cartesians,  who maintained that  the brain
must  act  as a  whole.  The positions  in  this debate  were paralleled  by
political  views:  the  conservatives  were Cartesians,  while  the  younger
liberals  and  republicans favored  cerebral  localization.  The debate  was
acrimonious and  prolonged in Parisian  medical circles. See Head,  Aphasia,
Vol. I, p. 25.


Nine  years later  two young  German physicians,  Gustav Fritsch  and Eduard
Hitzig, published  a paper  entitled "On the Electrical  Excitability of the
Cerebrum," which  demonstrated by experiment that  electrical stimulation of
discrete  cortical areas  produced combined  muscular contractions.87  Until
this  epoch-making result,  no new  experiments fundamentally  affecting the
role which  the cortex was supposed  to play in movement  had been conducted
for  almost fifty  years. Thus,  it is  appropriate that Fritsch  and Hitzig
address their remarks directly  to Flourens.88 In the intervening period the
sensory-motor paradigm  had been applied to  progressively higher structures
in the nervous system,  until a point had been reached just below the cortex
(thalamus and  corpus striatum).  This analysis was not  extended by further
experiments  for  twenty-five  years.  Fritsch and  Hitzig  eliminated  this
hiatus. They established cortical excitability, a role for the cortex in the
mechanism  of movements,  and  the doctrine  of cerebral  localization. From
their experiments on dogs, five centers were specified at constant foci: for
the muscles  of the  neck, for the  extensors and adductors  of the anterior
leg, (behind  that) for  the flexion and  rotation of the same  leg, for the
posterior  leg, and  for the facial  nerve.89  Fritsch and Hitzig  stress an
important reason for the delay in discovering the electrical excitability of
the cerebral cortex. The assumption of cerebral equipotentiality had allowed
experimenters  to   refrain  from  examining  and   stimulating  every  part
separately. 90   Thus,  Flourens'  belief  in   Cartesian  dualism  and  the
indivisibility of  the mind appears to have made it  easy for him to refrain
from the sort of  systematic, localized ablations which would have confirmed
cerebral localization.  Fritsch and Hitzig were  also Cartesian dualists and
wrote in  interactionist terms about the  soul and its material instruments.
Their results  supported cerebral localization of  motor functions, but they
argued  that their  findings  left room  for other  (nonmotor) parts  of the
cortex as  the organ of  mind. They felt that  psychological functions might
also  be localized. 91 Their views  should be  contrasted with those  of the
sensory-motor school in two respects: (1) their interactionism and (2) their
distinction between psychological functions and sensory-motor functions.

The  examples   of  Flourens  and  of   Fritsch  and  Hitzig  indicate  that
philosophical  assumptions can,  and do,  strongly influence the  conduct of
research and the interpretation of results, even though no empirical finding
can  falsify a  philosophical  belief. The  relations between  philosophical
assumptions and scientific research form one of the most interesting aspects
of the  study of the history and philosophy of  science, but it is important
to appreciate that these interactions do not occur as formal deductions: the
relationships are more subtle and idiosyncratic.

Where Fritsch and Hitzig  had found five motor centers, an Englishman, David
Ferrier, soon  found fifteen  and went on  to specify areas for  each of the
five  senses.92  Ferrier  began his  experiments  as an  attempt to  confirm
Jackson's clinical  findings by reproducing seizures  by means of electrical
stimulation of the cortex.93 He also


87 Von Bonin, Some Papers, pp. 81, 96.

88 Ibid., pp. 75-78.

89 Ibid., pp. 83-84.

90 Ibid., p. 90.

91 Ibid., pp. 77, 92, 96.

92  David  Ferrier,  "Experimental  Researches in  Cerebral  Physiology  and
Pathology," West Riding  Lunatic Asylum Medical Reports, 1873, 3: 30-96; The
Functions of  the Brain (London:  Smith, Elder, 1876), pp.  163-196; 2nd ed.
(1886), pp. 268-345. [I visited this mental hospital in August 1996. It was,
like most of the  old custodial asylums, closed, but on the map of the site,
one ward was named `Ferrier'.]

93 Ferrier,  "Experimental Researches,"  pp. 30, 85-87;  The Localization of
Cerebral Disease (London: Smith, Elder, 1878), p. 14.


set  out  to confirm  and extend  the  work of  Fritsch  and Hitzig. 94  The
significance and continuity of influences can be seen from the fact that the
monograph  which summarized  and interpreted  his findings was  dedicated by
Ferrier to Jackson.95  In fact, he is as lavishly deferential toward Jackson
as  Jackson  was toward  Spencer. 96  Sherrington,  in  turn, dedicated  his
classical lectures on The Integrative Action of the Nervous System (1906) to
Ferrier. 97  In  his  obituary  notice  of  Ferrier for  the  Royal  Society
Sherrington pointed out that Ferrier had done the most important research in
proving cerebral  localization, in placing it  at the center of neurological
interest,  and  in providing  the  basis  for a  "scientific phrenology." 98

The significance  of Ferrier's  work was quickly  appreciated. Accounts from
the British  Association, the President's Address  to the Royal Society, and
the 1901 supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, as well as contemporary
reviews  of his  works,  all confirm  that it  made  as much  a stir  as the
Bell-Magendie law  had fifty  years earlier.99  Even Carpenter  was moved to
rank Ferrier's  localizations among the greatest  advances in the physiology
of the  nervous system which had  been made in the  last fifty years, and he
acknowledged the  existence of the missing  fibres connecting the cortex and
lower centers, although he  held fast to his former separation of the cortex
and its  functions from  the sensory-motor paradigm  - the hiatus  which was
undermined in  the very report which he was praising  so lavishly. He saw no
inconsistency  between   his  former   views  and  Ferrier's   findings. 100

Ferrier  referred to  the  psychological interpretation  of his  findings as
"scientific phrenology." He reasoned as follows. His first experiment was on
a guinea pig which  died before its responsiveness to electrical stimulation
could  be  determined.  His  next  experiments  were on  rabbits  and  cats.
Electrical  stimulation produced  more or  less localized  convulsions (thus
confirming  Jackson) but  no  discrete movements. 101 It  was in  his fourth
experiment (on  a cat) that Ferrier  obtained localized, discrete movements.
For example, in one place stimulation produced slow


94 Ferrier, "Experimental Researches," p. 30.

95 "To Dr Hughlings  Jackson who from a clinical and pathological standpoint
anticipated  many  of  the more  important  results  of recent  experimental
investigation into  the functions of the  cerebral hemispheres, this work is
dedicated as  a mark  of the author's  esteem and admiration."  Ferrier, The
Functions of the Brain (1876), p. v.

96  David  Ferrier,  "The  Localisation  of  Function in  the  Brain"  (MS).
Communicated by J. B.  Sanderson 5 March 1874. Archives of the Royal Society
AP.56.2. (Abstract in  Proceedings of the Royal Society, 1874, 22: 229-232),
MS, p.  129V; cf.  Ferrier, The Functions of the Brain  (1876), pp. 256-257;
Localization, p. 14.

97  Charles S.  Sherrington (New  York: Scribner's,  1906), p. v:  "In token
recognition  of his  many  services to  the experimental  physiology  of the
nervous system."

98 Charles S. Sherrington,  "Sir David Ferrier, 1843-1928 " Proc. Roy. Soc.,
1928, 103B: viii-xvi, pp, x, xiii.

99  William   Rutherford,  "Address   to  the  Department   of  Anatomy  and
Physiology,"  Report of  the Forty-Third Meeting of  the British Association
for  the Advancement of  Science  (London: Murray, 1874),  Transactions, pp.
119-123, p.  122; George  B. Airy, "President's  Address," Proc.  Roy. Soc.,
1873 1874,  22: 2-12, p. 9; Anon. (C. S.  Sherrington), "Phrenology," in The
New  Volumes of the  Encyclopaedia Britannica  (10th ed.,  Edinburgh: Black,
1902),  Vol. XXXI,  p.  710 George  C. Robertson,  "Critical Notice  of 'The
Functions of the Brain', by David Ferrier," Mind, 1877, 2: 92-98, p. 92. For
an  accurate dramatization  of the  significance of Ferrier's  findings, see
Jürgen Thorwald,  The Triumph of Surgery, trans.  R. and C. Winston (London:
Thames  &  Hudson,  1960),  Ch. 1.  The  medical  applications of  Ferrier's
findings in localizing neurosurgery deserve further historical study.

100  William  Carpenter,  "On  the  Physiological Import  of  Dr.  Ferrier's
Experimental Investigations  into the  Functions of the Brain,"  West Riding
Lunatic  Asylum  Med. Reps.,  1874,  4 : 1-23,  pp.  2, 7-8,  18-19;  Mental
Physiology, pp. 709, 715, 719.

101 Ferrier, "Experimental Researches," pp. 34 38.


flexion  of the  phalanges of  the left  forepaw and  elevation of  the left
shoulder; in  another place it produced signs  of pain, screams, and kicking
with both  hindlegs, especially the left.l02 Thus,  he found that motion and
signs of sensation resulted from stimulation of the cortex. However, he soon
extended his  interpretations. In a later  experiment (on a dog) stimulation
produced  behavior  interpreted  as   dream  like  on  general  observation,
including wagging  of the tail and spasmodic twitching  of the right ear.l03
Ferrier received a grant  from the Royal Society which allowed him to extend
his researches to monkeys. He identified centers for advance of the opposite
hind limb,  as in  walking; and retraction,  with adduction of  the opposite
arm, as  in swimming.104 By 1874 he was  convinced that he was investigating
not merely  artefacts and  induced contractions, but the  basis of voluntary
movements. l05  Thus, his  inferences  moved from  contraction to  purposive
movement to  biological functions. This  reasoning led him to  claim that he
could  "artificially   excite  conditions  similar  to   normal  psychic  or
volitional stimuli" and to "translate into their psychological signification
and  localize  phrenologically  the   organic  centers  for  various  mental

The resulting conception of the functions of the brain is a corollary of the
theories  of Bain,  Spencer,  and Jackson,  for which  Ferrier felt  that he
provided  the  experimental  evidence:  ".  .  .  it must  follow  from  the
experimental data that mental operations in the last analysis must be merely
the  subjective side  of  sensory and  motor substrata"  -  a view  which he
attributes to  Jackson.l07 He adds in the  second edition, "For the cerebral
hemispheres consist only of  centers related respectively to the sensory and
motor  tracts,  which  connect  them  with  the  periphery  and  with  each
other.'' l08 Ideas  are  revived associations  of sensations  and movements,
thought is  internal speech, and intellectual  attention is ideal vision.l09
The centers  for special  sensory and motor activities  "in their respective
cohesions, actions, and interactions form the substrata of mental operations
in all their aspects  and all their range.''110 In short, all conceptions of
function are reducible to sensation, motion, and association. Ferrier's work
represents  the final extension  of the  Bell-Magendie paradigm to  the most
rostral  part of  the neuraxis  - the cerebral  cortex -  and its use  as an
all-embracing  explanatory  conception in  both  physiology and  psychology.

When Gall  finished his work  On the Functions of  the Brain in  1825, he re
marked that  he would  have liked to  withhold it longer but  that death was
imminent,  "and I  must be  content with  leaving this  first effort  in the
physiology  of the  brain,  far less  perfect than  it  will be  fifty years
hence.''111  In 1876 Ferrier's monograph, with  the same title, appeared. In
comparing   them,  one   finds   the  balance   between  physiological   and
psychological statements reversed. Gall's  work was almost wholly devoted to
the discovery and exposition  of the faculties or functions. Ferrier devotes
only ten per cent of his text to what he calls "the subjective aspect of the
functions of  the brain." Most of his book  is devoted to the "physiological
aspects," and  he concluded that these  consist of "a system  of sensory and
motor centers.  In their  subjective aspect the  functions of the  brain are
synonymous with mental operations, the consideration of which belongs to the
science of psychology." All that


102 Ibid., pp. 41-42.

103 Ibid., p. 51.

104   Ferrier,    The  Functions   of  the   Brain   (1876),   pp.  141-142.

105 Ferrier, "Localisation" (MS), pp. 95 97, 117-118.

106 Ferrier, "Experimental Researches," pp. 72, 76.

107 Ferrier, The Functions of the Brain

(1876), pp. 256-257.

108 Ibid. (1886), p. 426

109 Ibid., pp. 437, 462, 463-464.

110 Ibid., p. 467.

111 Gall, On the Functions of the Brain Vol. VI, p. 293.


Ferrier  felt  was  needed   to  convert  his  physiological  findings  into
psychologically significant statements  was the assumption of psychophysical
parallelism and the phrase "subjective aspect.''112

If Gall  was naive in believing that the  organization and physiology of the
brain corresponded  with his faculties in  a one-to-one fashion, Ferrier was
equally  so in  suggesting that  the primary  sensory and motor  areas could
explain psychological functions in a simple manner. He had localized sensory
and motor  areas, but he had not  provided a psychophysiology which accounts
for  the  adaptations  of  organisms  to  their environments.  As  a  recent
commentator  put  it,  "Whatever  its role  in  the  production of  muscular
activity, the  motor cortex cannot be  regarded as the seat  of any function
recognisable to the student of behaviour.''113

Experimental  sensory-motor physiology  was  on a  firm experimental  basis,
built up by progressive  extension of the Bell-Magendie law - a certain fact
about  the nervous  system - and  then united  with the concept  of cerebral
localization. However,  cerebral localization had become  scientific only by
abandoning  the goals  which  Gall had  laid down  at  the beginning  of his
research: to relate the  significant variables in the character and behavior
of men and animals to the functioning of the brain. The sensory-motor school
was undoubtedly  right in  rejecting Gall's faculty  psychology. However, in
being grounded on a  secure physiological basis, the sensory-motor tradition
cut itself off from  the approach to psychology which was the most important
aspect of Gall's work and which had been extended by Spencer's conception of
psychology  as a biological  science. In  rejecting Gall's answers,  it lost
sight of the significance  of his questions. Insufficient attention was paid
to what the sensory-motor elements should be required to explain. In default
of significant questions, the  only answers that were forthcoming were about
sensory  modalities  and  muscular  movements  and  led only  to  a  partial
understanding  of the primary  projection areas  of the somatic  cortex. The
role of many of these in normal behavior has yet to be determined. Questions
about adaptive,  biologically significant functions had  to be asked anew by
other  branches of  biology which  developed independently  on the  basis of
other aspects  of the ideas of Bain, Spencer,  and Darwin. The problem which
Ferrier bequeathed  to the present century  was that of retaining scientific
rigor  while  regaining  contact  with biologically  significant  functions.

Gall  and  Ferrier can  be  seen  as extremes  on  a  continuum of  possible
approaches  in  brain  and behavior  research.  Gall  stressed functions  as
adaptive  and related  them to  character, mastery  of the  environment, and
social and intellectual achievements.  He allowed his catalogue of functions
to dictate how the  brain must be organized and made no significant findings
in neurophysiology. Ferrier, on  the other hand, sacrificed the significance
of functions to physiological  accuracy. As John Dewey said in 1900, "Unless
our  laboratory  results  are to  give  us  artificialities mere  scientific
curiosities,   they  must   be  subjected   to  interpretation   by  gradual
re-approximation to the conditions  of life.''114 That is, mediation between
the   extremes  required   integration  of   the  independent   findings  of
physiologists, psychologists, and students of animal behavior (ethologists).
Though  Gall was  unable  to follow  his own  advice,  latter-day behavioral
scientists are  in a better position  to do so. He  said, "Whoever would not
remain in complete ignorance of the resources which


112   Ferrier,    The  Functions   of  the   Brain   (1876),   pp.  255-257.

113 O. L. Zangwill,  "The Cerebral Localisation of Psychological Functions,"
Advancement of Science 1963-1964 20: 335-344 p 337

114  John Dewey,  "Psychology and Social  Practice,"  Psych. Rev.,  1900, 7:
105-124, p. 119.


cause him  to act  . . .,  should know, that  it is  indispensable, that the
study of  the organization of the brain should march  side by side with that
of its functions.''115

Before concluding, one might  recall Gall's influence and suggest that there
is still more to be learned from him. As G. H. Lewes said, "Gall rescued the
problem  of   mental  functions  from  Metaphysics  and   made  it  one  of
Biology.''116  "In his vision of Psychology as  a branch of Biology, subject
therefore to  all biological laws, and to  be pursued by biological methods,
he may  be said to have  given the science its  basis.''117 His influence on
Bain and  Spencer was most  significant, and lesser figures  such as Laycock
and Carpenter also derived  much from Gall's approach. However, neither they
nor their modern heirs  - the behaviorists - have transcended the categories
which  Gall opposed  in the  name of  biology. The functional  psychology of
William  James and  John Dewey  advocated the  study of mental  functions as
adaptations, but they also failed to provide new and significant categories.

In 1940,  Sherrington pointed out that the new phrenology  was as far as the
old had been from understanding the role of the nervous system in integrated
behavior and  that there  were not even  names for the  categories which are
ultimately needed.118 Modern brain and behavior research is still attempting
to find ways of asking and answering the question, What are the functions of
the brain?  It appears that the answers to this  question will, in the first
instance,  owe  more  to  the  field  studies  of  the  ethologist  than  to
physiological experiments. It was Gall who made the point that we must first
know  the  functions  before  we can  ask  intelligent  questions about  the
organization and  physiology of the brain.  A century and a  half later, one
finds a  recent reviewer of the concept  of cerebral localization turning to
Gall in support of the thesis that "in exploring the functions of the brain,
I am  convinced that  we must limit  ourselves to the  study of biologically
significant  behavior  patterns,  no  matter how  complex  their  underlying
physiology may  be.''119 This, it  seems to me, is  the scientific lesson of
the foregoing account.

Turning to  the philosophical  issues, if anyone believes  that the problems
set by Descartes no  longer plague biological psychology, he should consider
the fact that modern  research is not dealing only with the two languages of
extended  substances and  thinking substances.  Though Descartes  might well
recognize  the activities  and  concepts of  the physiologist,  he  would be
puzzled by the coexistence  of the categories of function in the Passions of
the Soul  and  the Treatise on  Man (that is,  memory, reason, intelligence)
with the  atomistic units of the association  psychology. These last have in
turn been  made objective in  a third language-the stimuli  and responses of
the behaviorist which, their  claims not withstanding, have defied reduction
to matter and motion.  Thus, we have one language of brain, two of mind, and
a  fourth  of  behavior.  Add to  these  the  concepts  of the  evolutionary
biologist, and we find five sets of variables.

The  problem  for the  future  can be  approached  by two  paths. The  first
involves  transcending  these several  languages  with a  new ontology.  The
second -  which is at present in vogue - is  to find translation rules among
them. Whichever  approach is  taken, it seems clear  that careful historical
studies can help to provide the per


115 Gall, On the Functions of the Brain, Vol. II, pp. 45-46

116 George H. Lewes, The History of Philosophy from Thales to Comte, 2 vols.
(3rd .ed. London: Longmans, 1867-1871), Vol. II, p. 425

117 Ibid., p. 423.

118 C, S. Sherrington,  Man on His Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press,
1940), p. 228

119 Zangwill, "Cerebral Localisation," p. 338.


spective  on  the  current   confusion  which  is  necessary  for  increased
communication among  the physiologist, the layman,  the behaviorist, and the
ethologist. As a final  remark, one might suggest that no set of translation
rules will transcend the  problems which Descartes has bequeathed to us. The
best that can be  hoped for from compiling a dictionary of translation rules
is  better   communication,  not   a  coherent  ontology   for  interpreting
nature-including human nature.

This article  first appeared  in Isis  Vol. 59,  Part 3, No.  198, 1968, pp.
251-68.  It  is  a summary,  stressing  philosophical  implications, of  the
argument  of  my  Mind,  Brain  and Adaptation  in  the Nineteenth  Century:
Cerebral  Localization  and Its  Biological  Context  from Gall  to Ferrier
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970; reprinted N. Y.: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990).

© History of Science Society Inc.