p. 26713. Biological factors and crime
- Stephen JonesStephen JonesHonorary Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Bristol
This chapter presents the idea that criminals can be distinguished from the rest of the population by some unusual physical or biological characteristic that renders them inferior. Havelock Ellis cites a law in medieval England that stated that ‘If two persons fell under suspicion of crime, the uglier or more deformed was to be regarded as more probably guilty.’ When Socrates was on trial, a study of his face conducted by a physiognomist was ordered; this showed that he was cruel and inclined to drunkenness. Physiognomy, which is the assessment of character from facial features, in due course, gave way to phrenology. Phrenology held that the workings of the mind are related to the shape of the brain and skull, and that measurement of bumps on the skull can provide an indication of personal characteristics.