Biology and Crime
1. Cesare Lombrosso (1835-1909) – worked as a doctor with the Italian military
“Theory of Criminal Mind”
Some ties with biology and crime
Looked at external factors or criminal behavior; could it be body shape, eye colour?
Studied 3000 soldiers, along with mental patients and male and female prisoners and
wanted to see if there was a different between them.
Found that there are links between certain characteristics and criminal behavior in
Concerned with the biological causes of crime: physical traits became the way to find
deviance in individuals, along with various types of “abnormalities” in the deviant
Wanted to use positivism: can we predict crime?
Atavism as an idea
-negative, pessimistic views of people who have tendencies to become deviant.
Categorization between soldiers, mental patients ect.. believed atavism was the missing
link: it explains why we have deviance in society.
Such as eyebrow shape, four lines above eyebrow, proceeding eyebrow
Atavism: physical traits, abnormalities in face and believed people were born criminals.
ex: people who are labelled deviant are highly atavistic. Throwbacks to earlier age of
evolution. People who are criminals have not evolved with the rest of society, savages.
Deformed morally and biologically. Heavily influenced by Social Darwinism.
Who were considered atavistic
-people with flattened noses, hooked nose
-few lines on palm of hands
-scanty beard(not full)
-small shifting, quick moving eyes, thin nose, receding hairlines, proceeding forhead.
Stigmata- physical signs of atavism
ex. Soilders had less atavistic stigmata as prisoners
murderers: glass, cold, emotionless eyes
-women has lower crime rates due to maternal instincts, more controlled emotions.
-women could be vengeful, deceitful, and jealous
Born criminal- born criminals in the major ideas in born criminology based on the
physical features people were born with.
2. Lombroso’s classification of criminals 3. Solutions? Crime Prevention Strategies
-Prisons: keep criminals off the streets
-Prison may not always reform individuals
4. Origins of theories of biology and crime
-heavily ties to issues of Darwin
Evolutionary theory: survival of the fittest
-physical traits and links to crime? (both criminals)
5. Born Criminal Theory: Physiognomy
-developed by John Casper Lavater (1741-1801)
Facial features used to judge moral character
-nose, earlobes , eyes, chin lines, beards, receding hairlines ect.
Ex. bump on nose=violent tendencies
-classified as a tendency to have shifty eyes, bum chins, large noses, complexion.
6. Born Criminal Theory: Phrenology
Founders: Franz Joseph Gall (1776-1828) and Johann Casper Spurzhiem (1776-1