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Alexander Comfort (10 February 1920 – 26 March
2000) was a medical professional, gerontologist, anarchist, pacifist, conscientious objector and
writer, best known for The Joy of Sex, which played a part
in what is often called the sexual revolution. He was also the
author of many other books on a variety of topics.
Comfort was educated at Highgate School and Trinity College, Cambridge.
He studied medicine at the University of Cambridge
(pre-clinical study leading to a BA, upgraded in 1944 to an MA) and
the London Hospital (now known as the Royal
London Hospital), qualifying in 1944 with both the Conjoint diplomas of LRCP London, MRCS
England and the Cambridge MB BChir
Comfort served as a House Physician at the London Hospital and went on to become a
lecturer in physiology at the London Hospital Medical College. In
1945 he obtained the Conjoint Board's Diploma in Child Health, and
progressed to a PhD in 1950 and a DSc of the University of London in 1963.
A leading pacifist, Comfort considered himself "an aggressive
anti-militarist", and he believed that pacifism rested "solely upon
the historical theory of anarchism". He was
an active member of CND.
Among the works on anarchism by Comfort is Peace and
Disobedience (1946), one of many pamphlets he wrote for Peace News and the Peace Pledge
Union, and Authority and Delinquency in the Modern
He exchanged public correspondence with George Orwell defending pacifism in the
open letter/poem "Letter to an American Visitor" under the
pseudonym "Obadiah Hornbrooke."
He had a successful academic career in both England and the
United States of America, in parallel with his social and political
activism, and was a prolific writer.
Comfort's hastily-written 1972 book The Joy of Sex
earned him worldwide fame and $3 million. But he was bitter to
become known as "Dr. Sex" and to have his other work given so
little relative attention.
Comfort devoted much of the 1950s and 1960s studying the biology
of aging (biogerontology) as well as popularizing the
subject. He could be called an early biomedical gerontologist (life
extensionist) on the basis of his view that science could
extend human lifespan. In 1969 he suggested that life expectancy
(not simply maximum life span) could be extended
to 120 within 20 years.
Although Comfort believed that aging could be postponed, he did not
believe that it could be eliminated, and he did not write about rejuvenation.
In old age he returned to England, and in his last years was
disabled after a stroke. He died aged 80 on 26 March 2000 in South
- No Such Liberty (1941) - novel
- Three New Poets (1942) - Alex Comfort, Roy McFadden,
- A Wreath for the Living (1942)
- Elegies (1944)
- The Power House (1944) - novel
- The Song of Lazarus (1945)
- Outlaw of the Lowest Planet by Kenneth Patchen
(1946) - Preface by Alex Comfort
- Art and Social Responsibility (1946)
- The Signal to Engage (1946)
- Peace and Disobedience (1946) - pamphlet (reprinted in
1994 in Against Power and Death)
- Barbarism and Sexual Freedom (1948) - non-fiction
- On This Side Nothing (1949) - novel,influenced by Albert Camus, whose
work Comfort admired
- Authority And Delinquency in the Modern State
- Sexual Behaviour in Society (1950) - non-fiction
- And All But He Departed (1951)
- A Giant's Strength (1952) - novel
- The Biology of Senescence (1956) - non-fiction
- Come out to Play (1961) - novel
- Haste to the Wedding (1962)
- Darwin and the Naked Lady (1962) - articles
- Sex in Society (1963) - non-fiction
- Ageing - the Biology of Senescence (1964)
- Koka Shastra (1964)
- Process of Ageing (1965)
- The Joy of
Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking (1972)
- Come out to Play (1975)
- I and That: Notes on the Biology of Religion
- Poems for Jane (1979)
- Tetrarch (1981)-a fantasy novel inspired by William Blake
- Reality And Empathy: Physics, Mind, and Science in the 21st
- Imperial Patient(1987) -a historical novel about Nero.
- The Philosophers(1989) -satire of Thatcher's
Government set in the future.
- Writings Against Power and Death (1994)
The Medical Directory 1969 (125
ed.), London: J & A Churchill, 1969, p. 356
- ^ a
Rayner, Claire (28 March 2000). "News: Obituaries: Alex
Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2000/mar/28/guardianobituaries. Retrieved
For discussions of Comfort's political views, see Demanding the
Impossible: A History of Anarchism (1992) by Peter Marshall, and
Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow (2006) by David Goodway.
- ^ Complete Essays,
Journalism and Letters of George Orwell volume II, pg.
Martin, Douglas (20 March 2000). "Alex Comfort, 80, Dies; a
Multifaceted Man Best Known for Writing 'The Joy of Sex'". The New York
Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E03E4DD173CF93AA15750C0A9669C8B63. Retrieved
"Gerontology A Good Age by
Alex Comfort". Trivia-Library.com. 1975 - 1981. http://www.trivia-library.com/b/gerontology-a-good-age-by-alex-comfort.htm. Retrieved
Deaths England and Wales
Encyclopedia of Science Fiction,by John Clute and Peter
Nicholls,(1993). pg. 287.