History of Biological and Genetic Theories in Criminology

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Genetic Criminalization Is it wrong for a person to be categorized as a criminal based on their appearance or gene type? For hundreds of years different theories have been established to try and depict criminals in and amongst our communities. From the development of phrenology and atavism, to the beginning of DNA analysis in regards to eugenics and the XYY supermale, many theories have tried to explain not only how, but also why people become criminals. Some original theories, when analyzed today, may be considered absurd by many, but these attempts to explain criminal activity would open a door that would eventually lead to many different processes used all over the world today. In the late 18th century, an anthropologist by the name of Franz Joseph Gall created a theory in which he “hypothesized that the shape of the human skull was indicative of the personality and could be used to predict criminality (Schmalleger, 2011, p. 48).” This hypothesis was put in a theory called phrenology, or also referred to as craniology. Gall’s doctrine of phrenology was based off of six propositions, of which none were original. Gall’s most interesting proposition was his sixth. He proposed, “That since the skull ossified over the brain during infant development, external craniological means could be used to diagnose the internal state of the mental faculties (Cooter, 2006).” With this proposition, Gall created a model to go along with his theory of phrenology. The model was in the shape of a head which consisted of different personalities corresponding with different parts of the skull. If Gall felt a lump somewhere on the human skull, he would then compare it to the location on the model to see what the human’s personality was like. “Although Gall never tested his theory, it was widely accepted by many of his contemporaries because it represented a shift away from

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