Cesare Lombroso

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Lombroso, Cesare

(chĕ`zärā lōmbrô`zō), 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).

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.