This reticence is more than a little surprising, given the fact that Italian eugenics, as Mantovani has demonstrated, put reproduction at the centre of its activities. How eugenics, endocrinology and sexology were intertwined in the interwar period and the practical consequences of this for sexological practices remain, in my opinion, largely unexplored in the Italian context.
Therefore, according to Pende, the endocrine glands affect human psychology, the emotional sphere and even sexual behaviour. It was also meant to be a clinical approach that aimed to treat not the sick but the healthy, and to reveal their morbid hereditary or acquired predispositions. Biotypology highlighted minor weaknesses and sought to disclose the relationship between the endocrinal and the nervous systems, as it was believed that an early intervention was more successful than a belated one.
It was simply that he envisaged his science as best suited to enhancing the individual and the race. Thus, opotherapy could correct the unbalanced functioning of the endocrinal glands and transmit such corrections to future generations. In this sense hormone treatments were eugenic tools of intervention.
Both the increased fecundity and the improvement of the Italian stock could be achieved, according to Pende, through endocrinology. Such eugenicist aims did not remain purely abstract ambitions but assumed a concrete form in when Pende founded the Instituto biotipologico ortogenetico literally Biotypological Orthogenetic Institute, hereafter referred to as Institute of Biotypology in Genoa. I suggest that the real novelty of this institute lay in its use of endocrinology, which came to offer highly practical tools of intervention, in the guise of hormone treatments, to improve the Italian stock.
It is worth noting that such tools took the form of post-natal interventions, and as such were consistent with the fundamental tenets of the Catholic religion. The Institute had a number of rooms devoted to various sorts of examination: from anthropometric to psychological examination, from functional to blood examinations; all individuals were photographed and the results of the examinations recorded.
Emilio Maura and Paolo Peloso point out that as Pende had been Director of the Opera Nazionale Balilla for the Liguria region since , this would have certainly made it easier for him and his Institute to obtain access to the bodies of young men to be examined and eventually treated. As a consequence some of his theories and hypotheses changed over time.
The sexual characteristics were stimulated by the genital, thyroid, and pituitary glands and by the adrenal cortex. So biological men are normally attracted to the opposite sex. For example, castrated male animals, following the implant of an ovary, had been shown to have had sex with other males. In his writings Pende did not always make this link explicit, but it is reasonable to assume that he did by and large take it for granted. A taxonomy of this kind, combined with specific behaviours and psychological characteristics, was designed to codify men and women as certain kinds of human being.
In his work Le debolezze di costituzione [Consititutional Inadequacies], which was published for the first time in and translated into a number of different languages including English , Pende explained how endocrine dysfunctions affected the sexual instinct, and spelled out the scientific assumptions behind opotherapy and gland transplants. But in other pages, the reference becomes explicit.