ALFRED KINSEY, American research biologist, died (b. 1894) who in 1947 founded the Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University, now called the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction. Kinsey’s research on human sexuality profoundly influenced social and cultural values in the United States and many other countries in the West which went through the sexual revolution starting in the 1960s.

Kinsey is generally regarded as the father of sexology, the systematic, scientific study of human sexuality. He initially became interested in the different forms of sexual practices around 1933, after discussing the topic extensively with a colleague, Robert Kroc. It is likely that Kinsey’s study of the variation of mating practices among gall wasps led him to wonder how widely varied sexual practices among humans were.

During this work, he developed a bell curve scale measuring sexual orientation now known as the Kinsey Scale which ranks from 0 to 6, where 0 is exclusively heterosexual and 6 is exclusively homosexual. Kinsey maintained that people do not clearly fall into the categories of exclusive heterosexuality or exclusive homosexuality, but that most can be placed somewhere between, in a continuum of sexual orientations with homo- and heterosexuality at the extremes and bisexuality at the midpoint.

As a result of the work done by Kinsey and others, the American Psychiatric Association, in 1973, removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses. In 1935, Kinsey delivered a lecture to a faculty discussion group at Indiana University, his first public discussion of the topic, wherein he attacked the “widespread ignorance of sexual structure and physiology” and promoted his view that “delayed marriage” (that is, delayed sexual experience) was psychologically harmful. Kinsey obtained research funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, which enabled him to inquire into human sexual behavior. One of his main sources for much of the “non mainstream” sex study was none other than tattoo artist and lover of playwright Thornton Wilder, Samuel Steward (for a nice read on Steward check out Justin Spring’s Secret Historian: The Life and Times of Samuel Steward, Professor, Tattoo Artist, and Sexual Renegade 

His Kinsey Reports – starting with the publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male in 1948 followed in 1953 by Sexual Behavior in the Human Female – reached the top of bestseller lists and turned Kinsey into an instant celebrity, and are still the bestselling scientific books of all time. Articles about him appeared in magazines such as Time, Look, Life and McCalls. Kinsey’s reports, which led to a storm of controversy, are regarded by many as an enabler for the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Indiana University’s president Herman B. Wells defended Kinsey’s research in what became a well-known test of academic freedom.