Whitman and Phrenology

July 16, 1849.  Whitman visits the busy phrenological emporium of Fowler and Wells to literally have his head examined.  A nineteenth-century “science” that has long been discredited, phrenology sought to identify traits of character by the bumps and depressions on a human skull, with each area corresponding to a particular trait such as conscientiousness, destructiveness, mirthfulness, intellectual faculties, benevolence, and so forth.  Whitman’s analysis pleased him so much that he reprinted parts of it in several editions of Leaves of Grass: This man has a grand physical construction, and power to live to a good old age.  He is undoubtedly descended from the soundest and hardiest stock.  Size of head large.  Leading traits of character appear to be Friendship, Sympathy, Sublimity and Self-Esteem, and markedly among his combinations the dangerous faults of Indolence, a tendency to the pleasure of Voluptuousness and Alimentiveness, and a certain reckless swing of animal will, too unmindful, probably, of the conviction of others.
Whitman would use the phrenological principles of “amativeness” (love of women) and “adhesiveness” (love of men) to characterize sections of Leaves of Grass.