the years, Lombroso tried to modify his theory to go beyond biology
by taking account of environmental, social, and psychological factors;
however, his work remained flawed by his preconceptions of what
criminality meant. He defined criminals as people who were already
in jail, and never compared them to the general population in order
to test his theory. His writings had a great influence on the American
criminal justice system, but today are no longer taken seriously,
except as a historical curiosity. Towards the end of his life, Lombroso—like
Conan Doyle—became an ardent spiritualist.
The idea that criminals possess a low forehead and other "primitive"
physical characteristics was influenced heavily by phrenology and
anthropometry. Such ideas also surfaced in the literature of the
"He is not easy to describe. There is
something wrong with his appearance, something displeasing, something
downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet
I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere…."
—from a description
of Mr. Hyde (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert
Louis Stevenson, 1886)
In Stevenson's story, Mr. Hyde
is Dr. Jekyll's atavistic self
I caught one glimpse of his short,
squat, strongly-built figure as he sprang to his feet and turned
to run. At the same moment by a lucky chance the moon broke through
the clouds. We rushed over the brow of the hill, and there was our
man running with great speed down the other side, springing over
the stones in his way with the activity of a mountain goat.
Selden's atavism has advantages—he is able to outrun his more "civilized"
A lucky long shot of my revolver might have crippled him,
but I had brought it only to defend myself if attacked, and not
to shoot an unarmed man who was running away.
Like Conan Doyle himself, Watson follows a chivalric code of honor,
even when it does not work to his advantage. Watson often brings
his "service revolver" on cases at Homes's request, but he hardly
ever fires it.