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JAMA 100 Years Ago
January 19, 2011


JAMA. 2011;305(3):312. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1883

It is scarcely more than a year since Lombroso died. Within a week or two of the anniversary of his death, the International Prison Commission sitting in Washington listened to a sweeping repudiation of the theory that criminals are members of a distinct class, marked with certain atavistic physical characteristics, and endowed with an innate tendency toward crime. Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise,1 president of the British Prison Commission and president-elect of the International Prison Commission, says that examinations of three thousand of the worst convicts in England, including measurements, family history and mental and physical characteristics, have failed to confirm the existence of a criminal type; “and in fact,” he says, “both with regard to measurements and the presence of physical anomalies in criminals, these statistics present a startling conformity with similar statistics of the law-abiding classes.”