Cesare Lombroso, the founder of Italian School of Positivist Criminology, was an Italian professor, physician, author, psychiatrist and criminologist. He became world-famous for his work in the field of characterology (relation between mental and physical characteristics).
Lombroso believed that crime was a characteristic trait of human nature, thereby rejecting the principles of criminology propounded by the Classical School. He used concepts drawn from psychiatry and Social Darwinism. His theory of anthropology is similar to phrenology and physiognomy.
Cesare Lombroso was born on Nov. 6, 1835 in Verona. He was of the opinion that a born criminal could be identified by physical defects. His theory of anthropological criminology (also known as criminal anthropology) suggested that criminals could be distinguished from non-criminals by many physical anomalies.
His theory states that a “born criminal” can be identified by features such as unusual skull size, ears of unusual size, sloping foreheads and prognathism. Cesare Lombroso believed that specific criminals (like rapists, murderers and thieves) could be identified by specific characteristics. According to him, criminals lacked moral sense, had acute sight, lacked remorse, were less sensible to pain and touch, and were impulsive.
Cesare Lombroso linked excessive tattooing with lower standards of living. He was of the opinion that it was used as a tool to intimidate people in tough suburban areas. According to Lombroso, criminals had a higher pain threshold than normal people because they themselves would have been victims of child abuse.
Cesare Lombroso used the term “criminaloids” for moral imbeciles, criminal epileptics and occasional criminals. His research methods were clinical and descriptive; however, he did not engage in rigorous statistical comparisons. Cesare Lombroso was an atheist and believed in spiritualism.
Cesare Lombroso was a prolific author. He published a book titled “The Man of Genius” in the year 1889. In the book, he stated that artistic genius was a form of hereditary insanity. However, his thoughts on the subject are considered outdated today. His work on the subject inspired people like Hans Prinzhorn. His book “After Death What?” contains his views on spiritualism.
Lombroso’s theory of the atavistic offender was criticized by many European intellectuals during his lifetime. His views on criminology are ridiculed by some experts in the US.
Cesare Lombroso made significant contributions to the field of criminology and is widely recognized as one of the first people to bring scientific methods to bear on the study of crime.