Thursday, October 9, 2008

Cesare Lombroso and Italian Anatomical Museums

Check out this great post about 19th Century criminologist and physiognomist Cesare Lombroso and his connection to anatomical museums housing collections of criminal brains on the Mind Hacks website. The piece was inspired by an article in Nature Magazine and gives a great history of the man and his ideas, with wonderful links.

The article that inspired the write-up is, essentially, a review of the newly reopened "Museum of Human Anatomy at the University of Turin," or "Museo di Anatomia Umana 'Luigo Rolando'." The museum sounds amazing--it has just reopened after a long renovation designed to recreate a the feel of the original museum, established in 1739 and opened to the public in 1830 and has on display, among other things, preserved brains, a collection of 19th century brain models, skulls, paintings of famous anatomists, embryological models, and death masks of the lofty and depraved. It also features a stained glass window from 1897 depicting brain slices prepared by a former university head and neuroanatomist (that's his skeleton you see above!) Carlo Giacomini. The article is really fascinating and engagingly written, peppered with almost unbelievable historical fact. Download the article, by Alison Abbot and called "Hidden Treasures: Turin's Anatomy Museum," here.

Top photo: from the article. Caption reads "closest genius: Giacomini's skeleton and unusually shaped brain." Bottom: Cesare Lombroso's "L' Homme Criminel: Revolutionnaires et Criminels Politiques..."

Thanks, Lance, for bringing this to my attention!

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