Pasquale Penta (1859-1904), not only a “lombrosian” criminal anthropologist


  • Ilaria Gorini
  • Giuseppe Armocida
  • Jutta M. Birkhoff


In the updating of medical historiography the debate of positive or negative expressions about the criminal anthropology as
proposed by Lombroso never seems to have ceased. Some critical remarks already began within the same boundaries of the
school that recognized him as a teacher. In retracing the incessant discussion, our attention focused on the almost forgotten
figure of Pasquale Penta, a psychiatrist and criminal anthropologist of the late nineteenth century who had a good reputation
among his contemporaries, presenting himself in the Italian scientific world as one of the most valid exponents of the studies
of sector. He soon knew the works of Cesare Lombroso and accepted his dictation, but with a personal position. It stood alongside
those who felt they had to counteract a criminal determinism based on individual anthropometry and in particular on the
metric observation of the skull. Our analysis also focuses on the text of his lectures dictated in the school year 1899-1900 in
the University of Naples collected in a lithographed volume, a really useful tool to learn the history of teaching psychiatry and
criminal anthropology in a fundamental period of the doctrinal development of these two disciplines.