SALVATORE (JOSHUA) OTTOLENGHI
The world’s first CSI
SALVATORE (JOSHUA) OTTOLENGHI was born in Asti in 20th May 1861 to local businessman Raffaele Ottolenghi and Orsolina, nee Sacerdote (Sacerdote is the Italian word meaning “priest” and it is the Italianization of the name “Cohen”), who were members of the Jewish community of Asti. Salvatore graduated in Medicine and Surgery in 1884, at the University of Turin, when only 23 years old, His major interest at that time was ophthalmology but he was soon convinced by Professor Cesare Lombroso to devote himself to anthropology and psychiatry, becoming in 1885 assistant professor.
As a pupil and later assistant of Cesare Lombroso the creator of the discipline of scientific criminology, who was also Jewish, Salvatore Ottolenghi developed scientific investigation techniques and in 1897 he founded the “Rivista di Polizia Scientifica” [The Journal of Scientific Policing] with Giuseppe Alongi.
Together with Lombroso until 1893, Salvatore Ottolenghi developed in-depth studies in physiognomy, in phrenology and in the degeneratist and alienist disciplines, based on texts by Giovanni Battista Della Porta, Johann Kaspar Lavater, Franz Joseph Gall, Johann Gaspar Spurzheim, Benedict Augustin Morel, James Cowles Prichard and Henry Maudsley. In 1888 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Forensic Medicine. In 1893 he became Professor and Chief of the Medico-Forensic Department at the University of Sienna until 1903.
In 1895 Ottolenghi gave a series of lectures to police officials. These laid down the basis for the Scuola di Polizia Scientifica, [Scientific Police Academy] which he founded in Rome in 1902. In the same year he was made Professor of Legal Medicine at the University of Rome. His major works include: Anomalie del campo visivo nei Precopatici e nei Criminali (1891); (with U. Rossi) Duocento Criminali e prostitute(1894); La Sensibilità della Donna, (1896); (with Rossi) La Suggestione e le facoltà psichiche occulte (1899); Polizia scientifica (1907); and Trattato di polizia scientifica(2 vols., 1910 and 1931).
During one of my visits to Argentina, in Buenos Aires I met a young descendant of Salvatore, who is the proprietor of an English Language Academy, from whom I heard that she had visited Rome some years previously and had tried to visit the Scuola Superiore di Polizia Scientifica but had been stopped at the gate by security guards. She told them of her family connection to “Il Fondatore” and she was given a VIP tour of the premises culminating in a photograph with the bronze bust of her great grandfather
On 9th October 2018 Salvatore Ottolenghi’s life and work was commemorated by the Asti Municipality with the inauguration of a multimedia exhibit which included a tableau of Salvatore Ottolenghi in his office. The exhibited was opened by the local Chief of Police Franco Gabrielli .