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Lacassagne, Alexandre (1843–1924)

Between 1885 and 1914, Lyon was the capital of French criminology. Alexandre Lacassagne, professor of legal medicine at the University of Lyon, became the dominant figure of that time, both through his own publications and as director of Les archives d'anthropologie criminelle(Criminal Anthropology Archives) from 1886 to 1914.

Lacassagne believed that crime was not the expression of an innate human faculty but the result of an interaction between the individual and the social environment. The criminal is the “microbe” and the social environment is the “nutrient broth.” Society is a collection of individuals whose nervous systems have not all evolved in the same way. Just as there are three levels in every brain, so also every society contains three “social layers”: frontal, parietal, and occipital. ...

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