Cesare Lombroso

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Lombroso, Cesare

Lombroso, Cesare (chĕˈzärā lōmbrôˈzō), 1835–1909, Italian criminologist and physician. In 1876 he published a pamphlet setting forth his theory of the origin of criminal traits. In the study, later enlarged into the famous L'uomo delinquente (5th ed., 3 vol., 1896–97; partial tr. as Criminal Man, 1911), he compared anthropological measurements and developed the concept of the atavistic, or born, criminal. In his later works, less importance was given to that concept. Although the scientific validity of the concept has been questioned by other criminologists, Lombroso is still credited with turning attention from the legalistic study of crime to the scientific study of the criminal. Lombroso advocated humane treatment of criminals and limitations on the use of the death penalty.


See biography by H. G. Kurella (tr. 1911).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lombroso, Cesare


Born Nov. 6, 1835, in Verona; died Oct. 9, 1909, in Turin, Italy. Italian forensic psychiatrist and anthropologist; founder of the anthropological trend in bourgeois criminology and criminal law.

Lombroso graduated from a university in Pavia in 1858 and was appointed a professor there in 1862. Beginning in 1896 he was a professor at the University of Turin. Lombroso considered crime to be a natural phenomenon like birth or death. He developed the theory of innate criminality according to which individuals are born criminals, not made criminals. He worked out a system of characteristics of the “innate criminal,” which supposedly indicates whether the individual in question is capable of becoming a criminal or not. The physical features (stigmata) that according to Lombroso characterize a criminal include a flattened nose, sparse beard, and low forehead, all characteristics of “a primitive man or an animal.” In his early works he attached great importance to the biopsychological factors of criminality, but in his later works he came to recognize the importance of the sociological causes of criminality. On this basis, his theory is a biosociological one. Although the very first testing of Lombroso’s theory proved its scientific unsoundness, the theory nevertheless long retained a leading role in bourgeois criminology.


L’uomo delinquente, vols. 1-3, 5th ed. Turin, 1896-97.
In Russian translation:
Noveishie uspekhi nauki o prestupnike. St. Petersburg, 1892.


Reshetnikov F. F. Ugolovnoe pravo burzhuaznykh stran. Moscow, 1966.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
"Cesare Lombroso." In Pioneers in Criminology, edited by Hermann Mannheim, 232-291.
They also outline these criminologists' positions, focusing in particular on the reports of Cesare Lombroso and Gabriel Tarde.
En su obra La donna delincuente, la prostituta e la donna normale (1893), Cesare Lombroso describe a la mujer como mas cercana a la naturaleza que el hombre, mas atavica y unida a sus ancestros; en definitiva, mas salvaje.
(28) Cesare Lombroso, L'uomo di genio: in rapporto alla psichiatria, alla storia ed all'estetica, ed.
Cesare Lombroso is better known in the field of criminology, where he is recognized as the "father of the field." In his book, Man of Genius (1901), he hypothesized a direct link between genius and insanity, which deeply affected Hollingworth and Terman.
Around the turn of the 20th century, Cesare Lombroso theorized that certain people were born criminals and possessed such distinguishing characteristics as enormous jaws, prominent canines, and hooked noses, along with other abnormal intercranial features.
And perhaps Bram Stoker's Dracula (1897), almost despite itself, provides an appropriate model for this possibility of change, for, although recent literary criticism and indeed the novel itself have been keen to draw attention to the Count's atavism, his `child brain', and his `imperfectly formed mind' (21) that make him, as Van Helsing suggests, immediately recognizable to Max Nordau, the author of Degeneration, and Cesare Lombroso, the popularizer of criminal anthropology, as an atavistic case of arrested development, the novel also makes it very plain that over time this child-brain will develop and, indeed, has been developing into something much more significant and much harder to conquer.
Thus, Hawkins quotes use of one or both of these terms in his discussions of Walter Bagehot, Cesare Lombroso, Herbert Spencer, William Graham Sumner, Ludwig Gumplowicz, and others.
Given Shapiro's ability to trace the formation and circulation of discourses, I would have liked more discussion of the impact on French criminology and criminal trials of the work of Cesare Lombroso, the great Italian criminal anthropologist.
Those undertaking research in criminology will find in the book both a `good read' that traces the origins of their discipline and a handy resume should they embarrassingly forget whether it was Cesare Lombroso who scored for Argentina in the 1986 World Cup or Diego Maradona who represents European positivist criminology par excellence (or is it the other way around?).