Lombroso: inventor de la antropología criminal

Cesare Lombroso was born in Verona on 6 November 1835 into a wealthy Jewish family. In 1852, he enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Pavia, where he graduated in 1858. Lombroso’s fame rests above all on his theory of the atavistic or born criminal, the individual whose physical structure possesses the degenerative traits that differentiate him from the normal, socially well-adjusted man. Lombroso first showed an interest in the poor, the marginalized and the insane in his youth, when, as a young doctor, he travelled through the Lombardy countryside distributing pamphlets, printed at his own expense, to the peasants who were victims of pellagra. In 1859, he enrolled in the Military Medical Corps during the campaign against banditry and was invited to Calabria for three months. Here Lombroso studied the Calabrians, their language and folklore. His interest in crime dates from 1864, when he studied the soldiers’ tattoos and the obscene tattooed phrases that distinguished “the dishonest from the honest soldier”. Lombroso understood, however, that tattoos alone did not suffice in order to understand the criminal’s nature and that it was necessary to define the traits of the abnormal individual, the criminal and the madman by using the experimental method of positivist science. In 1866, he was nominated visiting lecturer at the University of Pavia. On 10 April 1870 he married Nina De Benedetti. They had five children including Gina, the second, who wrote her father’s biography.
In 1871, Lombroso became the director of the Pesaro asylum, which proved to be a fruitful professional experience, during that period he drew up a proposal that he presented to the ministerial authorities, which was to establish criminal asylums for mentally disturbed individuals who committed crimes and for dangerous mentally disturbed individuals. The following year he returned to Pavia and began the studies that would lead to his “theory of the criminal man”.

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