About this artwork

George Combe worked briefly as a lawyer and a brewer before devoting his career to the promotion of phrenology; a pseudo-science which explored the relation between the shape of someone’s skull and their personality, intelligence and economic prospects. Although even at the time many people doubted the ‘scientific’ evidence for such assumptions, Combe believed that phrenology was ‘the greatest and most important discovery ever communicated to mankind’. He published widely on the subject, and his book ‘The Constitution of Man’ became something of a bestseller. In 1833 he married Cecilia Siddons, but only after subjecting both himself and his future bride to a phrenological examination in order to find out if the match was a suitable one.

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Robert Adamson

David Octavius Hill

Robert Adamson

David Octavius Hill

A painter and a lithographer by training, David Octavius Hill is best remembered for the beauty of the calotypes he and Robert Adamson produced together. Hill was a sociable and kind-hearted man who did much to support the arts in Scotland and between 1830 and 1836 he was the unpaid Secretary of the newly established Royal Scottish Academy. After Adamson's death, Hill's attempt to start a new partnership with the photographer Alexander MacGlashan around 1860 failed. Hill is to this day revered as one of the first in the trade who transformed photography into an art form.