State Library of Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 44 Spring 1989


A Curiosity: Madam Sibly, Professor of Phrenology

The pseudoscience of phrenology, which developed in the early nineteenth century, was based on the theory that “the mental powers of the individual consist of separate facilities, each having its organ and location in a definite region of the surface of the brain” (Shorter OED). Phrenologists claimed that, by “reading bumps” on the skull, they could evaluate the mental powers of their subjects. The Manuscripts Collection contains several phrenological charts and readings, including one of the poet Bernard O'Dowd. The chart and accompanying analysis reproduced here were given to the Collection in 1988. Nothing further is known of Professor Marie Sibly of Williamstown or of David Jones, aged 29, whose bumps she read on 28 January 1871.
Capabilities of Character of
Mr. David Jones
Madame Sibly

You have a good Mechanical Brain of no mean order with a good constitution to back you up and assist in life as the Motive Temperament gives muscular strength, ease of action and a love of physical exercise, strong with a great force of Character. As Amativeness being large you love the Ladies and would feel happy in their society — but as a Husband you would [be] a paragon, likewise you would love and adore your Children — likewise Animals. You love and believe in the supreme Being, but not enthusiastically or madly yet you have the moral organ full. As a Mechanic you would excel especially to work after a Pattern.
The trade or profession you should follow should be the Buying or selling or shopkeeping as your perceptive organs, as Size Weight Form and Calculation are well expressed. Also Firmness and Conscientiousness will make you a straightforward and business like man. You know how to take of yourself and can fight the Battle of life well no matter what occupation you may embark into see Chart.
Marie Sibly