of or relating to the doctrine propounded by the Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso that criminals are a product of hereditary and atavistic factors and can be classified as a definite abnormal type.
Since Conrad elsewhere both borrows and satirizes Lombrosian taxonomies of the kind found in The Female Offender (notably in The Secret Agent), I argue that we might read "The Idiots" as a rendering of the kind of maternal passion that Lombroso contemplates as a cause of crime.
While Liszt pushed for an enlightened punishment policy that would serve more of a social than a moral purpose by attempting to modify the future behavior of the offender more than seeking to exact a "just measure of pain," Aschaffenburg produced one of the first systematic analyses of the causes of crime in his seminal 1903 study Das Verbrechen und seine Bekampfung (translated in English in 1913 as Crime and Its Repression) that stressed both individual-hereditary and social-environmental factors and firmly rejected Lombrosian notions of "born criminals.
On Lombrosian and biological ideas of crime in both Europe and America, see generally MARY GIBSON, BORN TO CRIME: CESARE LOMBROSO AND THE ORIGINS OF BIOLOGICAL CRIMINOLOGY (2002); NICOLE HAHN RAFTER, CREATING BORN CRIMINALS (1997); and RICHARD F.
The methodological questions that Rafter and Gibson raise and the rationale behind their final solutions are enlightening examples that will prove thought-provoking well beyond the arena of Lombrosian studies.