Phrenology and Criminology

As penitentiaries began to fill with prisoners, there was a desire to determine what commonalities there might be between the criminals. Phrenology, the study of the size and shape of the skull, was one way that the criminals were studied as scientists attempted to determine certain ideas about personality, behavior, and temperament, just from looking at the skull. The interest in phrenology was led by Eliza Farnham, a matron at the women’s prison at Sing Sing. A look into criminology in general reveals the roots out of which phrenology grew as people began to desire a scientific explanation for the causes of crime.