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Are Certain People Born to Kill and Hurt Others? The Father of Criminology Explains


The father of modern criminology, Cesare Lombroso, believed that criminality was inherited just as we inherited the color of our hair from our parents. Lombroso described the physical characteristics which he theorized could expose criminals and offenders.

Cesare Lombroso was the first person in history to apply scientific methods and anthropology to studying criminality. The lie detector was invented using his research as the basis.

The 1st case that fascinated the renowned scientist was that of Giuseppe Viella, who was convicted of arson and theft. Lombroso attempted to find a correlation between the psychological problems and physical characteristics of inmates.

Cesare Lombroso
Picture: Wikipedia

Viella's crimes were ones that the Italian scientist took strong interest in. Viella stood out with his exceptional dexterity and flexibility but that which kept sending him behind bars over and over again was his narcissism. Viella never missed an opportunity to boast about a committed crime.

After Viella's death, Lombroso found that he had well defined indentations in the back part of the skull, a trait present in other criminals with tendencies for hurting others. This marked the beginning of his criminal anthropology career.

Later Lombroso discovered that individuals with well defined jaws or cheekbones, ones who were insensitive to pain, had sharp vision, an obsession with tattooing and tendency for laziness had a higher tendency for committing crimes.


The Italian scientist theorized that these physical characteristics could be used to determine how dangerous a given person was. For example, the majority of thieves possess an expressive face, are dexterous and have small wandering eyes. At the same time, it's been found that the majority of murderers have a cold, glassy stare and large noses.

Lombroso's theory of born criminals also led him to conducting experiments in which he found a correlation between telling lies and the absence of pain sensitivity. These experiments were later used to create the first lie detector.


Lombroso's prototype used a hydrosphygmograph, a device for measuring blood pressure, while subjecting suspects to various stimuli - the sound of a gun firing, music, the image of money, a picture and photo of a naked woman. With his findings he was able to prove that the body reacts genuinely, which in turn could be used to prove one's criminal involvement.


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