What's the Word
The Word of the Week
Physiognomy - noun \?fi-z?-?�(g)-n?-m?\: The art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance or inner character or quality revealed outwardly. Merriam-Webster Online
In China and other Asian cultures, formal systems of face reading techniques developed sometime in the first millennia b.c.e.
Physiognomy was once regarded as a twofold science: a means of determining character by a person's outward appearance and, secondly, as a method of divination. Because of the abuses of the latter aspect its practice was forbidden by English law and by an act of parliament in 1743 all persons claiming to have skills in physiognomy "were deemed rogues and vagabonds," and were often publicly whipped, or sent to the house of correction.
Today physiognomy is being revived as new research indicates that people's faces can indicate such traits as trustworthiness, social dominance and aggression.
In Walter Isaacson's novel "Benjamin Franklin," An American Life, reference is made to physiognomy in a letter from Abigail Adams to her husband, John Adams, following a dinner with Franklin.
"Her description shows that she had a good insight into his [Franklin's] demeanor, though not his religious convictions," Isaacson wrote.
"I found him social but not talkative, and when he spoke something useful dropped from his tongue.ﾠ He was grave, yet pleasant and affable.ﾠ You know I make some pretensions to physiognomy, and I thought I could read into his countenance the virtues of his heart; among which patriotism shone in its full luster, and with that is blended every virtue of a Christian: for a true patriot must be a religious man."
Benjamin Franklin was raised as an Episcopalian and although he attended services at the Presbyterian Church for only five weeks, he continued to be a "pew holder and a contributor." Franklin scholars considered him to be moderate in his attitude toward religion. Alfred Owen Aldridge described Franklin as "a confirmed Deist, who, in contrast to more militant Deists like Tom Paine, did not attempt to witherﾠ Christianity by ridicule or bludgeon it to death by argument."
So there is the "outward" take on physiognomy and a little inside information of Benjamin Franklin.