Biographies - Alfred Kinsey
Image Source: University of Illinois
|Alfred Kinsey |
|Born: June 23, 1894|
|Died: August 25, 1956|
He caught the world by surprise when he published "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" in 1948, the first bestseller about sex. He followed-up with "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" in 1953.
In 1948, Alfred Kinsey (1894-1956) caught the world by surprise when he published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, the first bestseller about sex. Before the book appeared, Kinsey had labored in obscurity at Indiana University where he was known as a demanding biology professor whose greatest claim to fame was an obscure 1929 volume about wasps.
Kinseys interest in sex research was sparked when he participated in an I. U. sex education course
designed to prepare students for fulfilling marriages. As Kinsey prepared for the class, he was shocked by the dearth of scientific literature about sex and the misinformation spread by doctors and ministers. Kinsey, an ardent atheist, considered most of what he read about sex prudish because it was based on traditional "Judaeo-Christian" ethics he considered repressive.
Even though Kinseys liberal attitudes and open support for contraception quickly led the I. U. administration to replace him in the sex ed. class, Kinseys interest in sex research grew. He believed that scientifically conducted interviews would lead to greater insights about sex, and by 1940, he secured a grant to begin his project.
By the mid-1940s, Kinsey had recruited and trained a team of interviewers and he opened the Institute for Sex Research (since renamed the Kinsey Institute) on Indiana Universitys campus. By 1947, he was convinced that he had enough data to support a book about sexual behavior in men, and in 1948 it appeared on bookshelves as Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Kinseys reputation as a scrupulous and disinterested scientist made sex, still a taboo topic in 1948, acceptable to read about and printing after printing of the book sold out. Some religious critics thought the book was immoral, but Kinsey and his readers didn much care.
After finishing the male volume, Kinsey and his cohorts at the Institute for Sex Research began work on Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, a companion work that hit bookstores in 1953, but the female book suffered an icy reception. In the five years that had elapsed since the male book was published, the cold war was in full swing and many Americans believed the communist enemy was trying to undermine American morals. The Reece committee, one of the red-chasing arms of Congress, suspected that Kinsey might be allied with communist elements, and that his books were designed to destroy American morals and make her vulnerable to takeover.
Kinsey was no communist, and when the Reece committee threatened to investigate him and the Institute, he dismissed their charges, but the agency that funded his work was frightened into canceling his grant. Without funding, Kinsey was unable to launch his next planned project, a study of the perversions, and work was everything to him. He grew depressed, and just two years after he lost his funding, he died of a heart attack.