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Lombroso, Professor Cesare

Category: Scientist

 

Cesare Lombroso; born Ezechia Marco Lombroso; (6 November 1835 – 19 October 1909), was an Italian criminologist and physician, founder of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology.

He was an atheist and a materialist.

And on reading the following one would be right to wonder why he is on this site, but read on:

Brain and mind
Lombroso tried to relate certain physical characteristics, such as jaw size, to criminal psychopathology, or the innate tendency of individuals toward sociopathy and criminal behaviour. As such, Lombroso's approach is a direct descendant of phrenology, created by the German physician Franz Joseph Gall in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and closely related to other fields of characterology, such as craniology and physiognomy. His theory has been scientifically discredited, but Lombroso had the merit of bringing up the importance of the scientific studies of the criminal mind, a field which became known as criminal anthropology.

Up until the event we have in the observations, Lombroso was both an atheist and materialist.  But things changed very dramatically for him, when he was 46:

Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism

Professor Cesare Lombroso, the famous neuropath and criminologist, tells us that this experience, which came to him at the age of forty-six, was the first shock to the resolute materialism in which all his early life was passed. It led him in the end to so much belief in the spiritual nature of man as postulates survival after death, though the revelation he accepted was unfortunately that of the seance room.

Life

 

Lombroso was born in Verona, Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, on 6 November 1835 to a wealthy Jewish family. His father, Aronne Lombroso, was a tradesman from Verona.  He studied literature, linguistics, and archæology at the universities of Padua, Vienna, and Paris, but changed his plans and became an army surgeon in 1859.

 In 1866, he was appointed visiting lecturer at Pavia, and later took charge of the insane asylum at Pesaro in 1871. Lombroso used the inmates for his studies, as such one can question even the basis of his findings.

Lombroso's theory of anthropological criminology essentially stated that criminality was inherited, and that someone "born criminal" could be identified by physical (congenital) defects, which confirmed a criminal as savage or atavistic.

He postulated that criminals represented a reversion to a primitive or subhuman type of person characterized by physical features reminiscent of apes, lower primates, and early humans and to some extent preserved, he said, in modern "savages". The behaviour of these biological "throwbacks" will inevitably be contrary to the rules and expectations of modern civilized society.

In 1878, he wrote his most influential work, based on his beliefs,  L'uomo delinquente, Criminal Man - which went through five editions in Italian and was published in various European languages. It was not until 1900 that his work was published in English.

 

Lombroso's theories were rejected throughout Europe, especially in schools of medicine, [but not in the United States].

His notions of physical differentiation between criminals and non-criminals were later seriously challenged by Charles Goring (The English Convict, 1913), who, after Lombroso’s death, made elaborate comparisons of actual criminals and found insignificant statistical differences.

But Lombroso was not to be moved, he was convinced that the "born criminal" could be anatomically identified by such items as a sloping forehead, ears of unusual size, asymmetry of the face, prognathism, excessive length of arms, asymmetry of the cranium, and other "physical stigmata". Lombroso also maintained that criminals had less sensibility to pain and touch; more acute sight; a lack of moral sense, including an absence of remorse; more vanity, impulsiveness, vindictiveness, and cruelty; and other manifestations, such as a special criminal argot and the excessive use of tattooing.

Not content with this, he also wrote a book called Criminal Woman, to explain women's criminal offending. In the text, Lombroso outlines a comparative analysis of "normal women" opposed to "criminal women" such as "the prostitute."

"Because he was convinced that women are inferior to men Lombroso was unable to argue, based on his theory of the born criminal, that women’s lesser involvement in crime reflected their comparatively lower levels of atavism."

He became professor of forensic medicine and hygiene at Turin in 1878 and then professor of psychiatry (1896) and criminal anthropology (1906) at the same university.  In effect generations of students were also taught these beliefs.

Cesare Lombroso's 'Museum of Criminal Anthropology'

The Revelation

Lombroso
If ever there was anyone in this world who by his scientific training and by a sort of instinct was resolutely opposed to Spiritism, I was that man; for out of the principle that all force was merely a property of matter, and that the soul was an emanation of the brain, I had created for myself the line of study which was to be my life’s work. To think that I, of all men, who for so many years had laughed at the very idea of spirits, and table-turning and seances, should come to believe what I now believe!

Now in the year 1882, I, who had been so bitter an enemy to Spiritism that for years together I would not touch it, or be present at any experiment of the kind, was, in the course of my  professional duties as a neuropathologist, brought into contact with certain remarkable psychic phenomena of which science could give no account except to note the circumstance that the subjects concerned were all either hysterical or hypnotized.


The experience which changed his mind was not his, which makes this change of heart perhaps that much more remarkable.

Spiritualism

 

After his revelation, Lombroso began investigating mediumship. Although originally skeptical, he later became a firm believer in spiritualism. 

After the best part of three quarters of his life as an atheist and materialist, Lombroso had a lot to learn and his views on the paranormal and spiritualism in his book After Death – What? (1909), are somewhat naïve.  Nevertheless, he did make remarkable progress considering; he ended up believing in the existence of spirits, psychokinesis and levitation in the form of table tilting; and he supported the medium Eusapia Palladino and even published an article in the British Medical Journal of November 9, 1895 entitled Exit Eusapia! defending her.

For someone who had based his whole career on a set of beliefs, Lombroso was not about to change his philosophy overnight.  It might have been different if the experience had been his – a near death experience might have been more effective, but he did move a little.  He gave some recognition in his later years to psychological and sociological factors in the etiology of crime.

Furthermore, Lombroso published a book entitled The Man of Genius in 1889, a book which argued that genius and ‘insanity’ are connected.  He never went so far as to say there is no such thing as insanity, that the so called mentally ill are often assailed by uncontrollable spiritual experiences, but there are hints he might have realised this, but had not the courage or honesty to admit it.  He even began his own collection of "psychiatric art".

Death

There is something very intriguing about Lombroso, as the materialistic atheist is all too present in science today, with the same selective use of subjects to study, the same preconceived hypothesis that he wants to prove, and the same dogmatic beliefs, even when questioned. 

It appears to have taken a very extreme case – a patient who challenged all his preconceptions – to change his mind.

 Lombroso's daughter Gina Ferrero wrote that during the later years of his life Lombroso suffered from arteriosclerosis and his mental and physical health was wrecked.  Such is often the way when all spiritual input is blocked out, healing is as impossible as inspiration or wisdom.

References

Among his books are

  • L'Uomo Delinquente (1876; "The Criminal Man")
  • Le Crime, Causes et Remèdes (1899; Crime, Its Causes and Remedies) and
  • After Death - What?

Observations

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