The History of Criminal Profiling

“Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities…truth isn’t.”  Mark Twain. 

Did you know…The FBI doesn’t actually have employees with the job title FBI profiler?

However, special agents at the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC)  is located at Federal Bureau of Investigation, Training Division, FBI Academy, Behavioral Science Unit- Quantico, Virginia,  do construct profiles of unknown offenders. It is a job of investigation and research—a job of inductive and deductive reasoning; crime-solving experience; and knowledge of criminal behavior, facts, and statistical probabilities.

Men like Cesare Lombroso (criminologist), Dr. Hans Gross (founding father of modern criminal profiling), Dr. George B. Phillips (forensic pathologist), Dr. James A. Brussel (psychiatrist), Howard Teten (FBI agent who taught Applied Criminology courses and gave the FBI’s first profile on a case), Jack Kirsch (started the BSU), John Douglas and Bob Ressler (interviewed serial killers for analysis). These were the men who gave us what we now know as modern-day criminal profiling.

Criminal Profiling had been called many names such as, behavioral profiling, crime scene profiling, criminal personality profiling, psychological profiling and more recently criminal investigation analysis.

The truth is Criminal Profiling is multidisciplinary practice. Its history comes from the study of criminal behavior (criminology), the study of mental illness (psychology and psychiatry), and the examination of psychical evidence (forensic science).

The first publication on criminal profiling was, The Malleus Maleficarum (The Witches’ Hammer).  This was published in 1486 as a professional manual for witch hunters.  It was used as a guide for Spanish Inquisition, to assist in the identification, prosecution and punishment for witches.

Men in the  History of Criminal Profiling


Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909), Italian criminologist

Image via Wikipedia

Cesare Lombroso an Italian physician is generally thought of as the first criminologists. He studied 383 Italian prisoners and compared information on race, age, sex, physical characteristics, education and geographic region. Lombroso reasoned that criminal behaviors could be understood and predicated.  In 1876 he published a book called; The Criminal Man and suggested there were three types of criminals:

Born criminals-degenerates, primitive offenders who were lower evolutionary reversions in terms of physical characteristics. 

Insane criminals-who suffered from mental and/or physical illness and deficiencies. 

Criminaloids- The larger general class of offenders without specific characteristics. They were not afflicted by a recognizable mental disorder, but their mental and emotional make-up predisposed them to criminal behavior. Lombroso theory of criminal anthropology had 18 point characteristics indicative of a born criminal.

These 18 points all associate with the biology of a man’s face and body types. Lombroso felt, based on his research, he could recognize the psychical features that he had correlated with criminality. And thus criminology was born. (Turvey, 2005).

22 thoughts on “The History of Criminal Profiling

  1. Lisa Kessler says:

    Diane your new blog looks AWESOME!!!! 🙂

    You should add the “Subscribe” button at the top so people can get an email when you post a new blog… I think it’s in your widgets section…

    You did a great job!!!

    Lisa 🙂

  2. Judi romaine says:

    Thanks – I am following – as an ecothriller writer, I am always interested in violent crime. (sweet little old lady from Indiana)

  3. Hello, Diane. Very classy blog. Clean, neat, and very interesting. I’m looking forward to your book!
    L. j. Charles

  4. Terri Snetehn says:

    Love the new blog. Interesting post.

  5. Linda Kage says:

    What a great blog! It looks wonderful. And you have such great facts.

  6. Lisa says:

    I knew you would be a sucess sis.. Keep up the god work.. Get those books done so we can buy them and read them.. I can’t wait till they come out!!

    Love ya..

  7. John Yeoman says:

    A wonderful blog! You might take a look at Criminal Psychology: A Manual for Judges (1910) by Hans Gross. It’s at Gutenberg. In its day, it offered the equivalent of profiling. van Dine’s detective Philo Vance spoke of it warmly.

    Although it’s almost unreadably verbose, it makes some provocative observations that even Lombroso might have been proud of eg: ‘a tramp will never testify honestly, because he has never put himself to any work, but evaded it. Evasion is his method of thought.’ And: ‘a woman will disclose her hidden sensuality by arching her foot’.

    Perhaps our fictional detectives should avert their eyes more often?

    • dianekratz says:

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m really glad you liked the blog. You bring up an interesting point about other work we might find useful. Here are some other resources that might spark you’re the profiler in you. Please feel free to add to my list!
      Diane Kratz

      1. “Criminal Man According to the Classification of Cesare Lombroso” by Gina Lombroso Ferrero
      2. “Criminal Psychology: A Manual for Judges, Practitioners, and Students” by Hans Gross and J. U. D.
      3. “Crime and Insanity” by Charles Mercier
      4. “Science and the Criminal” by C. Ainsworth Mitchell
      5.”Modern Theories of Criminality” by C. Bernaldo de Quirós

  8. Carla says:

    Your website is amazing! Lots of good information! Looking forward to more. Thanks! Carla

  9. C. K. Crouch says:

    I think if we didn’t see part of us in all or some of the traits we’d be strange-lol. I enjoyed the post Diane/Kim.

  10. […] The History of Criminal Profiling ( […]

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  12. Bruno H. says:

    I really like this blog, and learned a lot from it. However, some of Lombroso’s ideas are almost fascists, and disapproved in Europe, and Brazil, where I live.
    The idea of physical characteristics dictating who will be the usual criminal is incorrect, as determined not only by biology, most precisely anatomy, but also by statistics.

    • dianekratz says:

      His theories were dispelled here as well. I included him in the history section because he did contribute a great deal to criminology and profiling. Profilers look for physical characteristics in crime scenes, and victimology. Patterns of behavior which help find the perpetuator using inductive profiling. I hope this clarifies things for you. I happy you enjoy the blog Bruno.

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