Cesare Lombroso Biography

Cesare Lombroso was an Italian criminologist, surgeon, and author. Check out this biography to know about his birthday, childhood, family life, achievements and fun facts about him.

Quick Facts

Birthday: November 6, 1835

Nationality: Italian

Famous: Italian Men Italian Intellectuals & Academics

Died At Age: 73

Sun Sign: Scorpio

Also Known As: Ezechia Marco Lombroso

Born Country: Italy

Born in: Verona, Italy

Famous as: Criminologist

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Spouse/Ex-: Nina de Benedetti

father: Aronne Lombroso

mother: Zeffora Levi

children: Gina Lombroso, Paola Lombroso, Ugo Lombroso

Died on: October 19, 1909

place of death: Turin

More Facts

education: The University of Pavia (1853–1858), University of Padua, University of Turin, University of Vienna

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Cesare Lombroso, also known as Ezechia Marco Lombroso, was an Italian criminologist, surgeon, and author. He is regarded as the father of the Italian School of Positivist Criminology. He was an opponent of the classical school of thought and rejected the idea that crime and criminal behavior was human nature. He proposed that criminality was instead inherited and coined the term "born criminal." He supported his claims using theories of degeneration and Social Darwinism. His supporters like Enrico Ferri and Raffaele Garofalo were also part of the positivist school of thought. He developed the concept of atavism that determined delinquent behavior through physiognomy and anthropometric qualities. Several criminologists and scholars critiqued him. His studies and works were essential in shifting the focus from the legal education of crime to scientific research of crime and criminals. His research was based on empirical evidence and the application of experimental methods. He emphasized on the scientific analysis of evidence procured through careful observation. His later works acknowledged the different socio-economic factors that contributed to degeneration and differentiated between "born criminals" and circumstantial criminals when it came to dispensing legal punishment. He propagated humane treatment of the criminally insane and encouraged limiting death penalty sentences.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Cesare Lombroso began his career as a surgeon in the army in 1859. In the year 1866, he was a visiting professor at the University of Pavia, his alma mater.
  • By 1871, he was the head of the mental health care facility in Pesaro. He specialized in forensic medicine. In 1878, he became a lecturer at Turin. His most popular and critically acclaimed project, ‘L'uomo delinquent,’ was published the same year. It was covered in five editions and translated into many languages.
  • By the 1900s, his three major works had been translated in English. "The Female Offender," which was printed in 1895 and only halfway translated, was read and appreciated by the author George Gissing.
  • In 1896, Lombroso divulged into psychiatry and became a professor at the university in Turin, and by 1906, he also taught criminal anthropology. The theories of positivism, materialism, and evolutionism greatly impacted his works.
  • Philosophers like Auguste Comte, Bénédict Morel, Charles Darwin, and Carl Rokitanski were some of the thinkers he studied and looked up to. The term "born criminal," which is used in some of his greatest works, was suggested by his contemporary Enrico Ferri.
Criminal Atavism
  • Cesare Lombroso postulated the idea of criminal atavism. His theory stated that criminals could be identified and differentiated by their physical traits.
  • After rigorous research, he said that delinquents or "born criminal" could be distinguished by physical features like asymmetrical face, uneven or unusual ear size, protruding mandible, uneven cranium, longer arms, and other anomalies.
  • He also believed that criminals were insensitive to touch and pain, had perfect vision, were devoid of moral consciousness and generally depicted traits that showed them to be callous and cruel in nature.
  • Cesare Lombroso focused on the evolution of the atavistic criminal. He believed that these criminals were not sufficiently evolved or were examples of a reversal of evolution.
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  • In his first edition of ‘L'uomo delinquente,’ he solely focused on the atavistic criminal with much detail into physical traits. However, he changed his views on criminal classification in his later editions.
  • He made additions to his theory and stated that atavism was a form of degeneration which was a common cause for criminal behavior. Several biologists differed with his arguments and critiqued his statements.
  • He also stated that the "born criminal" was pathologically challenged, similar to people with a lack of morality and those who suffered from epilepsy. Thus, he added to his classification the terms “criminally insane” and “criminally epileptic.”
  • He also classified the criminally insane as “the alcoholic, the hysterical, and the immoral.” He differentiated between a criminaloid and a “born criminal” with qualitative and quantitative distinctions.
  • Lombroso believed not all criminal attributes originated naturally, but he never got over the idea of a "born criminal."
  • In 1896-97, when his final edition of ‘L'uomo delinquente’ was released, his estimation of the “born criminals” was drastically reduced to 40% of the transgressors. Further, in ‘Criminal Man’ (1911), the percentage mentioned was even lower.
  • After facing significant backlash from his critics and receiving suggestions from friends, he also considered the social and physical factors contributing to a person's behavior.
  • In 1899, he released ‘Crime: Its Causes and Remedies,’ which saw a fall in his general estimate of “born criminals” to only 33% and talked about the social factors that were responsible for physical anomalies that affected a person's behavior.
  • Cesare Lombroso fashioned himself as the founder of modern scientific psychiatry and is credited with coining the term 'criminologist.' He established departments of psychology and psychiatry in several universities.
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  • He dedicated his life studying mental illness and the causations behind criminal behavior. He believed in the positivist school of thought, unlike his opponent Cesare Beccaria.
  • His publications aided in developing a school of psychiatry with biological determinism through genetic factors.
  • His theories are said to constitute "the most influential doctrine" which provide insights into human behavior. He also stated that not only the physiognomy but other features like tattoos could also indicate criminality.
  • He observed sex workers and hypothesized the relationship between left-handed people and criminal predisposition. He also associated left-handedness with other anomalies like alcoholism and neuro-degeneration. His hypothesis paved the way for further research into disorders and autoimmune diseases associated with left-handedness.
  • Cesare Lombroso's studies also brought about a change in the legal system and the trial of criminally insane. He is accredited with the establishment of asylums for mentally challenged criminals.
  • During his final years, he was studying the disease pellagra. He revealed that pellagra occurred because of a deficit in nutrition.
Family & Personal Life
  • On 10 April 1870, Cesare Lombroso married Nina de Benedetti. They had five children.
  • His daughter Gina published a composite summary of his works posthumously. It is believed that Gina's husband, Guglielmo Ferrero, influenced Lombroso and changed his perspective on criminal attributes.
  • Lombroso passed away at the age of 73, on 19 October 1909, in Turin, Italy.

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Article Title
- Cesare Lombroso Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- January 10, 2020
Cesare Lombroso

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