Cesare Lombroso

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Cesare Lombroso

Cesare Lombroso [ˈtʃeːzare lomˈbroːzo] (born November 6, 1835 in Verona , Kingdom of Lombardo-Venetia , Austrian Empire , † October 19, 1909 in Turin ) was an Italian doctor, professor of forensic medicine and psychiatry .

Lombroso is considered to be the founder of the so-called positive school of criminology ( Scuola positiva di diritto penale ), which is oriented towards criminal anthropology and to which the Italian lawyers Enrico Ferri and Raffaele Garofalo are also assigned. The Positive School saw itself as a reaction to the Classical School of Criminology ( Cesare Beccaria , also Jeremy Bentham ) and ensured that in the 19th century more and more scientifically trained specialists, above all medical professionals, but also biologists and anthropologists, became aware of the subject of crime approximated. Lombroso's speculative assumptions incorporated elements of physiognomics , social Darwinism and the phrenology established by Franz Joseph Gall . Lombroso's typing of criminals on the basis of external body features served the National Socialists as a template for their racial biological theories .


Cesare Lombroso, contemporary oil painting

Lombroso was born in Verona in 1835 under the name Ezechia Marco Lombroso into a Jewish family, his wife came from a Jewish family in Alexandria . They had five children, including the writers Paola Lombroso Carrara and Gina Lombroso , who married his assistant Guglielmo Ferrero and who took care of his scientific legacy after his death.

In his teenage years, Lombroso was influenced by his cousin David Levi, who was nearly twenty years his senior . The Enlightenment- leaning poet and follower of the Risorgimento of Jewish descent ensured that Lombroso turned away from his father's religious orthodoxy . His interest in anthropology and historical linguistics was awakened by the doctor Paolo Marzolo, who in 1850 caused Lombroso to drop out of public school and take private lessons instead. Three years later, Lombroso enrolled in the medical and surgical faculty of the University of Pavia .

Lombroso, who also attended the universities of Padua and Vienna for study purposes , was an excellent and inquisitive student who was equally interested in the humanities, history, and natural sciences. In 1858 he completed his studies in Pavia with a thesis on cretinism in Lombardy .

In the Second Italian War of Independence in 1859 he was an army doctor. Between 1863 and 1872 he was responsible for the asylums in Pavia, Pesaro and Reggio Emilia. In 1874/75 he became an associate professor of forensic medicine, hygiene and toxicology in Pavia . From 1876 he was professor of forensic medicine and hygiene in Turin. Like Auguste Comte , in whose tradition he stands, he overemphasized biological causes of mental illness. The theoretical results of his studies also indicated that those parts of the population who engage in criminal activity show a higher percentage of physical, nervous and mental anomalies than the non-criminal ones. These anomalies can be explained partly by degeneration , partly by atavism .

In 1872 Genio e follia (German as genius and madness 1887 by Reclam) appears, a psychiatric-anthropological work with which Lombroso became known to a larger audience. In the contemporary discussion about genius , he takes the position that this is a permanent psychological state of emergency which, in its various forms, shows analogies to "madness" in the sense of ecstasy and is ultimately not fundamentally biologically different from the criminal disposition. In Genio e follia , Lombroso describes writers like Tasso , Rousseau , Hölderlin or Kleist as "geniuses with mental disorders" and compares them with clinical cases of insanity. What both groups have in common is an innate deviation from the civilized, rational norm: both geniuses and madmen regularly fall back into a chaotic, irregular state of nature.

With his work L'Uomo delinquente (Eng. The criminal in an anthropological, medical and legal relationship, 1887) first published in 1876 , he founded a new theory in criminology , the transition from criminal law to criminal law. His doctrine of delinquente nato - the born criminal - was controversial from the start. The criminal is described here as a special type of humanity who stands in the middle between the insane and the primitive. In German-speaking countries, his criminal biological theories were spread under the name of the theory of perpetrators .

The direct relationship to the more aggressive, non-culturally domesticated ancestors of today's humans is evident in some people's physical characteristics, according to Lombroso's thesis. A certain shape of the skull or eyebrows that have grown together are a reference to an atavistic - thus lower and more violent - stage of development. External features thus point to the deeply rooted predisposition to be a criminal, which cannot be masked even through the acquisition of social behavior. To “prove” his theory, Lombroso carried out measurements on numerous skulls (including those of those who were executed) in his institute. He promised practical application of his theory of the “born criminal” through the “early detection” of criminal tendencies in children and adolescents who had the corresponding “criminal” skull shapes.

It is no longer the criminal act but the criminal as an anthropologically determined type that becomes the subject of a new scientific discipline, forensic phrenology . The practical reforms that Lombroso proposed sought to give the delinquent, who, according to his theory, was born criminal, a different kind of punishment than the one who was driven to his actions by circumstances.

In 1880 Lombroso founded the Archivio di psichiatria, antropologia criminale e scienze penali.

In 1892 the “Museo di psichiatria e antropolgia criminale” was founded in Turin, in which Lombroso brought together a multitude of objects: writings and works of art by the mentally ill and criminals, photographs and skulls of abnormal personalities.

Criticism and reception

Lombroso combined heterogeneous personality traits in his person. He openly declared himself a socialist , positivist , philosemite , racist and eugenicist . At the beginning of his career he was a staunch materialist , but later regretted his resistance to spiritualism after working with the then well-known medium Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918) . Whether his polarizing theories are worthy of merit is, however, controversial in current research; they were definitely influential. With his fixation on anatomical body features, Lombroso stands in a questionable criminological tradition that favored suspicion and prejudice on the basis of biological features. Therefore, today's scientists, who reject a biological-genetic predetermination of humans to "evil" or to crime, tend to a negative assessment of Lombroso.

With his theory of the born criminal, Lombroso wanted to reform the Enlightenment doctrine of free will . In criminal matters, jurisdiction should be shifted between lawyers and medical professionals in favor of medical professionals. Lombroso was by no means concerned with a "milder" assessment or less punishment for the born criminal, but with the psychiatrist's authority to interpret in the criminal process.

With reference to Lombroso's criminal biological theses, the National Socialists carried out extensive forced sterilization of criminals and the “mentally ill” during the Third Reich in Germany as part of their medical-eugenic programs .

In Italy in 2010, the descendants of people whose skulls are on display in Lombroso's extensive collection of skulls in Turin demanded their return and dignified burial.

The contemporary impact of Lombroso is shown in a letter from the author Luigi Capuana to him in June 1905, which expresses a deep bond.

Fonts (selection)

  • L'uomo bianco e l'uomo di colore (Eng .: The white and the colored man ), 1871. The young Lombroso tries to break a lance for the reception of Darwin's theories in Italy.
  • L'uomo delinquente. In rapporto all'antropologia, alla giurisprudenza ed alle discipline carcerarie , Turin, Bocca, 1876 ( Biblioteca antropologico-giuridica ). (German: The criminal in an anthropological, medical and legal relationship. In German adaptation by MO Fraenkel. 3 volumes. Hamburg, Verlagsanstalt und Druckerei AG [formerly JF Richter] 1890 to 1896)
  • with Rudolfo Laschi: The political criminal and the revolutions in anthropological, legal and political science relation. With the assistance of the authors, German ed. by Hans Kurella. Volume 2, Hamburg 1892.
  • L'uomo di Genio. (German: The genius man. Translated by MO Fraenkel. Hamburg 1890).
  • Genio e follia, in rapporto alla medicina legale, alla critica ed alla storia. 1887.
    • German: Genius and madness in their relationship to the law, to criticism and to history. [with the consent of the author, based on the 4th edition of the original Italian text, translated by A. Courth, Leipzig 1887]. Reclam, Leipzig 1920.
  • with Rudolfo Laschi: The political criminal and the revolutions in anthropological, legal and political science relation. With the assistance of the authors, German ed. by Hans Kurella. Volume 2, Hamburg 1892.
  • La donna delinquente ... (German: The woman as a criminal and prostitute. Anthropological studies, based on a presentation of the biology and psychology of the normal woman with G. Ferrero. Hamburg: Verlagsanst. And Dr. A.- G. 1894)
  • New advances in criminal studies. Griesbach, Gera 1899 ( digitized version )
  • Genio e degenerazione.
    • Studies of Genius and Degeneration. Translated from the Italian by Ernst Jentsch. Leipzig 1910.


  • Giuseppe Armocida:  Lombroso, Cesare. In: Mario Caravale (ed.): Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI). Volume 65:  Levis-Lorenzetti. Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Rome 2005, pp. 548-553.
  • Wilhelm Büttemeyer:  Cesare Lombroso. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 5, Bautz, Herzberg 1993, ISBN 3-88309-043-3 , Sp. 202-204.
  • Giorgio Colombo: La scienza infelice. Il Museo di anthropologia criminale di Cesare Lombroso. Bollati Boringhieri, Turin 2000
  • Delia Frigessi: Cesare Lombroso. Einaudi, Turin 2003, ISBN 88-06-13866-9
  • Delia Frigessi, Ferruccio Giacanelli, Luisa Mangoni (eds.): Cesare Lombroso. Delitto, genio, follia. Scritti scelti. Bollati Boringhieri, Torino 2000
  • Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio: The reception of the criminal anthropological theories of Cesare Lombroso in Germany from 1880-1914. Matthiesen, Husum 1995 (Treatises on the History of Medicine and Natural Sciences 70), ISBN 978-3-7868-4070-1
  • Mary Gibson: "Born to crime". Cesare Lombroso and the origins of biological criminology. Praeger, Westport (Connecticut) 2002, ISBN 0-275-97062-0
  • Klaus Hofweber: The Sexual Theory of Cesare Lombroso. Munich, Univ. Diss., 1969
  • Peter Strasser : criminal people . On the Criminal Science Generation of Evil (1984), expanded new edition Campus, Frankfurt 2005, ISBN 978-3-593-37747-6
  • Vojin Saša Vukadinović : From the criminological criminal album: On the gender-political reception of nihilism by Cesare Lombroso . In: Christine Hikel, Sylvia Schraut (ed.): Terrorism and gender. Political violence in Europe since the 19th century (=  history and gender . Volume 61 ). Campus , Frankfurt a. M./New York 2012, ISBN 978-3-593-39635-4 , pp. 79 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  • Erich Wulffen : Cesare Lombroso's doctrine of the criminal . In: Jürgen Seul , Albrecht Götz von Olenhusen (eds.): Erich Wulffen - Between Art and Crime: Criminal Psychological Articles and Essays. Elektrischer Verlag, Berlin 2015.

Web links

Wikisource: Cesare Lombroso  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. a b Giuseppe Armocida:  Cesare Lombroso. In: Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani (DBI).
  2. Stephen Jay Gould: The wrongly measured man. Frankfurt M. 1999, p. 129f.
  3. Peter Becker: Physiognomy of the "evil". Cesare Lombroso's efforts to preventively decipher the criminal. In: Claudia Schmölders (Ed.): The eccentric view. Conversation about physiognomics. Berlin 1996, pp. 163-186.
  4. Pier Luigi Baima Bollone: Cesare Lombroso ovvero il principio dell'irresponsabilità. Torino 1992.
  5. ^ Daniel Pick : Faces of Degeneration. A European Disorder, c. 1848-c. 1918. Cambridge et al. a. 1989. pp. 128f. ISBN 0-521-36021-8
  6. web link
  7. Illustre amico, Quando, nello scorso aprile, veniva celebrato il suo giubileo scientifico, rivedendo le bozze di questo volumetto io pensavo di fargliene riverente omaggio per unire la mia fioca voce di novelliere alle unanimi acclamazioni del mondo intero del mondo intero. - E m'induceva a questo non solamente l'antica affettuosa venerazione, ma anche l'idea che il soggetto delle due novelle qui riunite, avendo qualche relazione coi suoi ultimi spassionatissimi studi intorno ai fenomeni psichici, dei quali abbiamo ragion volta che ho avuto il piacere di rivederla, evitava all'omaggio il difetto di una troppo grave stonatura. - Lo accetti, Illustre Amico, con la sua solita bontà, e mi creda semper suo aff.mo. Luigi Capuana. Catania, 28 giugno 1906