Oct 192020

Crown Office, 25 Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1LA

25 Chambers Street, site of the former Phrenological Museum

25 Chambers Street used to be the site of the Edinburgh’s Phrenological Museum. Phrenology emerged in the eighteenth century and used the human skull to determine personal character and development. Throughout the nineteenth century, however, the pseudo-science became increasingly racialized and Edinburgh’s students used it to both promote and refute racist theorizations. For example, in Ethnology and Phrenology, Edinburgh graduate John William Jackson claimed that “contemplated through the medium of Comparative Anatomy, a Negro is but the embryonic, and a Mongol the infantile form of the Caucasian or perfect man.” Equally important, however, were the medical students of colour who have historically resisted these ideas and created their own counter-narratives. James ‘Africanus’ Beale Horton was born in Sierra Leone in 1835 and graduated from Edinburgh in medicine in 1859. In his book West African Countries and Peoples, Horton labelled racist phrenologists as “men of science with restricted observation.” Theophilus Scholes was born in Jamaica in 1856 and completed his medical degree at Edinburgh two years early. In Glimpses of the Ages, he attacked the claim that a “Caucasian brain” weighed 200 grams more than an “African brain,” asking “is a greater travesty of scientific research possible?”

James Africanus Beale Horton
Theophilus Scholes
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