Thursday, 12 May 2016

Cesare Lombroso: The father of modern criminology

I don’t recall how I got to reading about Cesare Lombroso, but last night I found out about him for the first time.
 If you regularly read this blog (Although I’m pretty sure people just stumble here by accident looking for a specific case and never return) you might have seen my posts on the moulage work of Joseph Towne and Gaetano Zumbo. I’m obsessed with moulage art, which is strange; because I usually dislike anything disease related.
I think Towne’swork had a sort of beauty to it, though, and then on the opposite end of the scale Zumbo's work sometimes looks like 3D Cannibal Corpse album covers.

Anyway! It’s a possibility that I found Lombroso through the photographs of the museum in Italy that houses all of his work. He was basically the pioneer of criminology. His theories and ideas might seem a little off the wall to us now with the hindsight of modern criminology, but it shows a definite shift and progress in the scientific study of the human mind.

Honestly, I have missed out so much in this post, there is so much more to these studies but I thought I'd add some links at the end if you're interested in further reading.

Italian born Cesare Lombroso, often referred to as “The father of modern criminology” believed that criminals could be identified by certain physical traits and characteristics.
Rejecting the commonly taught puritanical idea of the time, that the desire to commit criminal offenses was intrinsically human and all humans simply “sin”, Lombroso believed that it could be a physiological, that criminals could be “born that way” and that it was detectable by science and anthropometric (measurement of the human body) examination.

Crooked or hooked noses, small skulls, left handedness, protruding jaws, dark hair, shortness, lack of facial symmetry and disproportionate limbs were all features that could lead Lombroso to conclude someone a candidate for criminality. He analyzed the appearance of certain offenders with a classic literary villain descriptions such as shifty eyed robbers and emotionless dead eyed killers and so on. He believed that they were not completely evolved from early man, and thus held on to their primitive savageness. This was his theory of atavism.

Lombroso stood by his theory that certain features were an indication of one’s desire or capacity to commit criminal acts. He studied this both through looking at photographs of criminals, and through phrenology- the measurement the distance between features on the face, such as the space between eyebrows, the size and length of the nose, the closeness or distance between the eyes, the length of the jaw and so on. He also conducted postmortem examinations of skulls, from a large pool of individuals considered both “normal” as well as what was referred to as mentally ill or criminal at the time.

(image: wikipedia)

From these studies, he concluded that a common physical anomaly found in all criminals was what he called the median occipital fossa – a malformed or depressed area found back and central on the occipital bone of the skull. 

However he neglected to keep thorough statistical records of his examinations and it is thought that he did not have enough evidence to back up his theory and had not explored all avenues of reason. 

Although phrenology is considered unsubstantiated and is now days known as a pseudoscience, Lombroso continued his research for many years, accumulating around 400 skulls in the process.

(Pic source: Youtube)

As outdated and outlandish as his theories seem in modern times, it was a far cry from the general belief that crime was simply a corruption of the devil.
 Lombroso’s studies open the doors to modern criminology and the scientific study of the causes of criminal behavior. 
Later, Sociological and Environmental Factors, which Lombroso neglected to add into the equation, would be explored and modern day criminology would be born.  

The Cesare Lombroso Handbook [X]
Ceaser Lombroso wikipedia [X]
Lombroso museum [X]
A short youtube video [X] [X]


British born Joseph Towne was a moulageur, stereoscopist and sculptor. He made models exclusively for Guy’s hospital in central London, and remained loyal to the hospital for as long as it remained open, with the exception of sculpting for some international clients in the USA and India. Towne was born in Hertfordshire, and spent two years an artist’s apprentice. His first major project was constructing a to-scale human skeleton using anatomy books as his reference. Having never seen an authentic human skeleton in his life, he traveled to London where there was a Society of Arts competition in progress. There, a doctor looked over Townes work and wrote him a note of approval. He came second in the competition, and was only 17 years of age at the time. The following year he took the number one spot with his anatomical wax model of a dissected head.(Click here<< to continue reading) 

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