rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Weird Science

Rufus B. von KleinSmid was president of the University of Southern California from 1922 to 1946. While looking for something entirely different on the Internets I came across this article about a lecture he had given that appeared in the school's student newspaper, The Southern California Trojan, of August 1, 1924.

"Criminals know this city to be the Garden of Eden," said President von KleinSmid at the lecture on criminology, Tuesday, July 29. "Physical factors causative of crime," was the subject or the lecture.

"Although there is no incentive to commit murder quite so strong as indigestion," said President von KleinSmid, "there are certain physical factors that are found to be causative of crime. Certain characteristics found in the homes of the feebleminded, and that are not causative of, but indicative of criminal action, are the morel ear, the Darwnian ear, flat feet, nervousness, incorrect speaking, web fingers, web feet, protruding shoulder blades malformed spine, lack of phalanges in the fingers, pigeon chests, and misplaced hips."

The methods of taking and keeping the finger prints was described. "From the moment of birth to death, the individuality of the finger print does not change," said the president. "Many attempt to mutilate the thumb, but if you wish to be a good safe cracker, preserve the sensitiveness of the fingers."

"We have no right to say a man is sane because he is intelligent. The function of the mind is three fold: (1) intellect; (2) feeling (emotion); (3) volition.

"In the case of the widely discussed case of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, there was no training in inhibitory power. Consequently the boys were devoid of the second and third quality. This lack of inhibitory power is common to all criminals."
Had this astonishing information come from anyone with less impressive credentials than professor von KleinSmid I might be a bit skeptical. But von KleinSmid was, among other things, the founder of the American Association of Criminal Psychology. He must have known what he was talking about.

I really do wonder what von KleinSmid said in the lecture that was left out of the article— especially what he said about indigestion. I get indigestion now and then, and I'd hate to think I'm at risk of becoming a criminal because of it. I also suffer from nervousness and frequently from incorrect speaking, so I guess I'm even more at risk. And as I grow older I find that my hips are much more likely to get misplaced. The tendency of hips to suffer more misplacement with age is, I suppose, why old people are so much more inclined to criminal behavior than, say, teen-aged boys.

While I do enjoy watching movies and television shows (especially English shows) about murder, I've never seen myself as apt to commit one, but if a pioneer of the study of criminology (and the President of one of California's two major private universities) said it's possible, then it must be true. Of course the state of the social sciences was less advanced in 1924 than it is now, and many things have changed quite a bit since then, so perhaps what was true in 1924 is no longer true today. Perhaps people have improved so much that a tendency to suffer indigestion will no longer induce criminal desires in us. I do know that I have never stolen anything while suffering an attack of indigestion—not even a package of Rolaids—and I've certainly never murdered anyone— except vicariously, of course.

Plus I think I'm fairly smart, and it seems to me that becoming a criminal is not a very smart thing to do. But then, as professor von KleinSmid said, "[w]e have no right to say a man is sane because he is intelligent." So, even though fairly smart, I still might be crazy. Professor von KleinSmid said it was possible, and I'm sure he was way more intelligent than I am.

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