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Metoposcopy is the interpretation of facial wrinkles, especially those on the forehead, to determine the character of a person. It is also usedMetoposcopia as a type of divination and has been used in conjunction with astrology. This pseudoscience was invented by the great 16th century mathematician, physician, and astrologer Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576).  Legend has it that Cardano starved himself to death at the age of seventy-five rather than live and run the risk of falsifying his horoscope and thereby discredit his beloved astrology.

The drawing reproduced here is from Cardano's Metoposcopia and shows the position of the planets on the wrinkles of the forehead. Cardano's science of forehead reading did not catch on, unlike the typhus fever of which he gave the first clinical description.

In all, Cardano worked up about 800 facial figures, each associated with astrological signs and qualities of temperament and character. He declared that one could tell by the lines on her face which woman is an adulteress and which has a hatred of any lewdness. Long, straight furrows indicate nobility of character. He claimed to be able to tell the generous from the trickster by their distinct lines and noted that having three curved furrows on the forehead proves one is a dissolute simpleton. The strongest feature of metoposcopy is that it is a non-invasive method of quickly assessing character. Its weakest features are that it has no scientific merit, although it can be easily verified by confirmation bias, and it is very cumbersome to have over 800 character traits to consider.

See also physiognomy, phrenology, personology, and rumpology.

further reading

Ekman Paul & Erika L. Rosenberg, eds. 1997. What The Face Reveals : Basic and Applied Studies of Spontaneous Expression Using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS). Oxford University Press.

Last updated 20-Dec-2013

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