Cesare Lombroso

Early life and formative years

Ezechia Marco Lombroso was born in Verona, on November 6, 1835 and was the second of five children of a wealthy Jewish family. From his early years, he was encouraged by his mother to obtain a good education and therefore began attending a public school under the control of Jesuits. Throughout his formative years he developed an interest for history and at the age of sixteen he wrote a review of a book called “An introduction to historical monuments revealed by analysis of words”, by a well-known philosopher, linguist and physician named Paolo Marzolo.images

After reading this review, Marzolo requested a meeting with the young historian and afterwards they developed a friendly relationship. It was under the influence of Marzolo that Cesare Lombroso began his study of medicine at the age of eighteen. “He enrolled as a student at the University of Pavia during 1852-1854, at the University of Padova in 1854-1855, the University of Vienna in 1855-1856, and received his degree in medicine from the University of Pavia in 1858 and his degree in surgery from the University of Genoa in 1859” (Wolfgang, 362). It was during his year in Vienna that Lombroso became interested in psychology and psychiatry and began his studies of the anatomy and physiology of the brain. He also became highly concerned with cretinism, a usually congenital abnormal condition marked by physical stunting and mental retardation caused by severe hypothyroidism, and pellagra, a disease marked by dermatitis, gastrointestinal disorders, and mental disturbances and associated with a diet deficient in niacin.

Later work and research

From 1859 to 1863 Lombroso volunteered for medical services in the army, which include a post of army physician. However, the most important outcome of this service was the beginning of his research on about 3000 soldiers whom he measured in order to analyze and express their physical differences. This experience lead him to his observations on tattooing, a practice he later described as being an important characteristic of the common criminals. He was also allowed to carry out clinical studies on mental patients in the hospital of St. Euphemia in Pavia, and during the years 1863 and 1872 he was in charge of insane patients at hospitals in Pesaro, and Reggio Emilia (Wolfgang, 363), where he conducted most of the psychiatric studies that lead him to his interest in criminology. In 1896 he was appointed as professor of psychiatry and clinical psychiatry at the University of Turin, the same place in which he became a professor of criminal anthropology in 1906.

Personal life and family

Lombroso’s domestic life was nothing out of the ordinary. When he was 34 he married a young Jewish girl with whom he had two daughters, Gina and Paola. The girls grew up to be very close to their father, and they both ended up marrying men whose works related to that of Lombroso. It was actually with Gina’s husband, Guglielmo Ferrero, that Lombroso carried out the research that would later on lead them to the writing and publishing of “La Donna Delinquente”. During Lombroso’s later life, it was his daughter who performed most of the readings and research, and after his death in 1909, they became the ones in charge of editing and translating his posthumous works.

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