Firstly, there was the born criminal, which Lombroso defined as an "atavistic reversion to a more primitive evolutionary form". 8 Next, there was the group of criminals affected by paralysis and abnormalities – these were titled insane criminals, and were made up by "idiots and imbeciles". Finally, Lombroso recognised the existence of the occasional criminal, the largest group of all.
This was split into two sections: 1) the "pseudo criminal" (those who commit crimes without evil intent and without seriously harming society9) and 2) the "criminaloid" where "adverse environmental circumstances were to blame"10, such as an individual's upbringing and associations. 'L'Uomo Delinquente' was reprinted many times throughout Lombroso's criminological career, increasing each time in volume. As scepticism over his theories arose, Lombroso would contradict previous hypothesis, and replace them with other possible explanations for the common delinquent.
It is for this reason that the "born criminal" was reduced from making up the entirety of the criminal population, to just one-third of it by the time the fifth edition of 'L'Uomo Delinquente' was published. Further such criticism of physical explanations led Lombroso to suggest epilepsy as the source of criminal behaviour. According to Lombroso, "while not every epileptic was a born criminal, the latter… was always an epileptic. "
By Lombroso's third edition of 'L'Uomo Delinquente' the author had made another important concession, which greatly negatived the "born criminal" – in order to fall into this category, an individual would need to demonstrate at least five facets of physical stigmata. But perhaps the most outrageous inconsistency in Lombroso's strict theory of atavism was when he widened what he had previously concluded as fact – that people were born criminal – to include other factors related to criminal causation, such as education and economics.
This was emphasised in his final book; 'Crime: It's Causes and Remedies', where there was a definite "prominence to environmental factors rather than biological". All of Lombroso's preceding analysis on the criminal focused on males. However, Lombroso was aware of the female presence in crime statistics and therefore did go on to look at the female criminal counterpart in his later book collaborated with G. Ferrero; 'La Donna Delinquente, la Prostituta, e la Donna Normale' ('Women as criminal and Prostitute').
Using the same techniques to grade female offenders as done with males, the pair concluded that although the amount of genuine born criminal types was much lower among women, the number of occasional criminals was very large. Females were also much more ferocious in their acts, and were characterised by a "lack of mother sense". Lombroso's thesis on the female criminal stemmed from the idea that they were childlike, thus "vengeful, jealous, morally deficient and predisposed to cruelty". Throughout his career and beyond, Lombroso has been highly criticised for presenting a simplistic, and naive theory, which failed to cover many of the anomalies of the criminal.
One of Lombroso's strongest critics has been Gabrielle Tarde. In his book 'La Criminaliti Compari, Tarde emphasised how there were too many contradictions in Lombroso's use of physical characteristics. Lombroso based his research on physical anomalies but didn't use appropriate measurements. For example, when using cranial capacity as an indicator of being criminal, Lombroso failed to compare this with other physical features like the weight and height of the individual.
Tarde addressed Lombroso's erroneous references to tattoos in "born criminals". Tarde argued that tattoos don't indicate a criminal, as one is not born with them, instead, they appear after one is convicted. As he stated, they are a "non-hereditary phenomena", learned and practiced amongst prisoners once they were imprisoned. According to Tarde, Lombroso also makes assumptions that biological anomalies should effect populations equally – geography, population density, and economics for example, can all affect the criminal ratio.
As well as this, he points out that had Lombroso examined other occupations in the same light as that of criminals, he would have also found born judges, musicians and so on – the born criminal is therefore perhaps just one professional type of many. One final criticism made by Tarde, was that Lombroso omitted any social problems, such as poverty, ethnicity, social class or intelligence as possible factors of criminal behaviour. Tarde himself believed that delinquency was not genetic, but the result of wider social problems…
Charles Goring, author of 'The English Convict: A Statistical Study", also opposed Lombroso's simple atavistic theory on the criminal man, and believed it was nothing more than "an organized system of self-evident confusion whose parallel is only to be found in the alchemy and other credulities in the Middle Ages". Although setting out to disprove, and discredit Lombroso's work, Goring only seemed to advance Lombroso's theory of hereditary inadequacy further, when he reached conclusions such as there was a consistent "inferiority in statute and in body weight amongst criminals.
"Goring was also very much in favour of underrating environmental influences, just like Lombroso: "Crime is only, to a trifling extent (if to any) the product of social inequalities… "Goring thus emphasises that his only real disapproval of Lombroso's work is regarding his methodology (an area where Lombroso comes under scrutiny with many a critique). As shown by Manheim27, this criticism can be broken down into three parts – problems with measurements, statistics and reliability.
In summary, Lombroso's major downfall was that he was incapable of reproducing measurements… how could one disprove his thesis when his research could not be repeated? The fact that Goring was so eager to negative Lombroso's thesis, means that Goring's own work does lose some of it's value, and one must be sceptical of his criticisms against Lombroso. Hooton accused him of having "strong preconceived emotional bias against Lombroso… " and even of "…
twisting the results of his investigation to make them conform to his bias". Although strongly criticized for his theories regarding atavism, many of Lombroso's ideas have been developed by other criminologists, and are still echoed in the modern day. Lombroso's investigation of the human body began a legacy of study relating to the brain. Although his techniques were not scientifically sound, they led to the discovery that the human brain covers various aspects of functioning.
Accodring to C. Ray Jeffery, "… the brain is divided into sensory, motor and associational areas… [and] controls certain aspects of behaviour found in anger, violence and fear… ". Psychological pathology, which focuses on the idea of a sick mind, has also advanced from atavism. Based around the imbalance of the individuals' ego, as well as problems during personality development, it's origins trace back to Lombroso and the Italian school of positivistic criminology.
In conclusion, one can see that although regarded as one of the pioneers of criminology, Lombroso's work did not come without censure. Despite this, Cesare Lombroso's analysis of the criminal man is a keystone in the history of the study of crime. Without his theory of atavism there would have been no advancement into the effects of biology relating to delinquency, which has in turn initiated other theories, including those that look at wider social issues external to the individual.