1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lombroso, Cesare

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5080431911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 16 — Lombroso, Cesare

LOMBROSO, CESARE (1836–1909), Italian criminologist, was born on the 18th of November 1836 at Verona, of a Jewish family. He studied at Padua, Vienna and Paris, and was in 1862 appointed professor of psychiatry at Pavia, then director of the lunatic asylum at Pesaro, and later professor of forensic medicine and of psychiatry at Turin, where he eventually filled the chair of criminal anthropology. His works, several of which have been translated into English, include L’Uomo delinquente (1889); L’Uomo di genio (1888); Genio e follia (1877) and La Donna delinquente (1893). In 1872 he had made the notable discovery that the disorder known as pellagra was due (but see Pellagra) to a poison contained in diseased maize, eaten by the peasants, and he returned to this subject in La Pellagra in Italia (1885) and other works. Lombroso, like Giovanni Bovio (b. 1841), Enrico Ferri (b. 1856) and Colajanni, well-known Italian criminologists, and his sons-in-law G. Ferrero and Carrara, was strongly influenced by Auguste Comte, and owed to him an exaggerated tendency to refer all mental facts to biological causes. In spite of this, however, and a serious want of accuracy and discrimination in handling evidence, his work made an epoch in criminology; for he surpassed all his predecessors by the wide scope and systematic character of his researches, and by the practical conclusions he drew from them. Their net theoretical results is that the criminal population exhibits a higher percentage of physical, nervous and mental anomalies than non-criminals; and that these anomalies are due partly to degeneration, partly to atavism. The criminal is a special type of the human race, standing midway between the lunatic and the savage. This doctrine of a “criminal type” has been gravely criticized, but is admitted by all to contain a substratum of truth. The practical reform to which it points is a classification of offenders, so that the born criminal may receive a different kind of punishment from the offender who is tempted into crime by circumstances (see also Criminology). Lombroso’s biological principles are much less successful in his work on Genius, which he explains as a morbid, degenerative condition, presenting analogies to insanity, and not altogether alien to crime. In 1899 he published in French a book which gives a résumé of much of his earlier work, entitled Le Crime, causes et remèdes. Later works are: Delitti vecchi e delitti nuovi (Turin, 1902); Nuovi studi sul genio (2 vols., Palermo, 1902); and in 1908 a work on spiritualism (Eng. trans., After Death—What? 1909), to which subject he had turned his attention during the later years of his life. He died suddenly from a heart complaint at Turin on the 19th of October 1909.

See Kurella, Cesare Lombroso und die Naturgeschichte des Verbrechers (Hamburg, 1892); and a biography, with an analysis of his works, and a short account of their general conclusions by his daughters, Paola Carrara and Gina Ferrero, written in 1906 on the occasion of the sixth congress of criminal anthropology at Turin.