Alfred Kinsey: Wikis


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Alfred Charles Kinsey

Kinsey interviewing a respondent to his survey
Born Alfred Charles Kinsey
June 23, 1894
Hoboken, New Jersey, United States
Died August 25, 1956 (aged 62)
Bloomington, Indiana, United States
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Biology
Institutions Indiana University
Alma mater Bowdoin College
Harvard University
Known for Sexology, Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Kinsey scale

Alfred Charles Kinsey (June 23, 1894 – August 25, 1956) was an American biologist and professor of entomology and zoology, 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 - foundational to the modern field of sexology - profoundly influenced social and cultural values in the United States and many other countries.




Alfred Kinsey was born on June 23, 1894, in Hoboken, to Alfred Seguine Kinsey and Sarah Ann Charles. Kinsey was the eldest of three children. His mother had received little formal education; his father was a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology. His parents were rather poor for most of Kinsey's childhood. Consequently, the family often could not afford proper medical care, which may have led to young Kinsey's receiving inadequate treatment for a variety of diseases including rickets, rheumatic fever, and typhoid fever. This health record indicates that Kinsey received suboptimal exposure to sunlight (the cause of rickets in those days before milk and other foods were fortified with vitamin D) and lived in unsanitary conditions for at least part of his childhood. Rickets, leading to a curvature of the spine, resulted in a slight stoop that was to prevent Kinsey from being drafted in 1917 for World War I.

Early years

Kinsey's parents were extremely devout Christians; this left a powerful imprint on Kinsey for the rest of his life. His father was known as one of the most devout members of the local Methodist church[1] and as a result most of Kinsey's social interactions were with other members of the church, often merely as a silent observer while his parents discussed religion with other similarly devout adults. Kinsey's father imposed strict rules on the household including mandating Sunday as a day of prayer (and little else). As a child, Kinsey was forbidden to learn anything about the subject that was to later bring him such fame.

Love of nature

At a young age, Kinsey showed great interest in nature and camping. He worked and camped with the local YMCA often throughout his early years. He enjoyed these activities to such an extent that he intended to work professionally for the YMCA after his education was completed. Even Kinsey's senior undergraduate thesis for psychology, a dissertation on the group dynamics of young boys, echoed this interest. He joined the Boy Scouts when a troop was formed in his community. His parents strongly supported this (and joined as well) because the Boy Scouts was an organization heavily grounded on the principles of Christianity. Kinsey diligently worked his way up through the Scouting ranks to earn Eagle Scout in 1913, making him one of the earliest Eagle Scouts.[2] Despite earlier disease having weakened his heart, Kinsey followed an intense sequence of difficult hikes and camping expeditions throughout his early life.

High school

In high school, Kinsey was a quiet but extremely hard-working student. While attending Columbia High School, he was not interested in sports, but rather devoted his energy to academic work and the piano. At one time, Kinsey had hoped to become a concert pianist, but decided to concentrate on his scientific pursuits instead. Kinsey's ability early on to spend immense amounts of time deeply focused on study was a trait that would serve him well in college and during his professional career. Kinsey seems not to have formed strong social relationships during high school, but he earned respect for his academic ability. While there, Kinsey became interested in biology, botany and zoology. Kinsey was later to claim that his high school biology teacher, Natalie Roeth, was the most important influence on his decision to become a scientist.


Kinsey approached his father with plans to study botany at college. His father demanded that he study engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken. Kinsey was unhappy at Stevens, and later remarked that his time there was one of the most wasteful periods of his life. Regardless, he continued his obsessive commitment to studying. At Stevens, he primarily took courses related to English and engineering, but was unable to satisfy his interest in biology. At the end of two years at Stevens, Kinsey gathered the courage to confront his father about his interest in biology and his intent to continue studying at Bowdoin College in Maine. His father vehemently opposed this, but finally relented. This decision essentially destroyed his relationship with his father and deeply troubled him for years to come.

In the fall of 1914[3], Kinsey entered Bowdoin College, where he became familiar with insect research under Manton Copeland, and was admitted to the Zeta Psi fraternity, in whose house he lived for much of his time at college.[4] Two years later in 1916[5], Kinsey was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated magna cum laude with degrees in biology and psychology. He continued his graduate studies at Harvard University's Bussey Institute, which had one of the most highly regarded biology programs in the United States. It was there that Kinsey studied applied biology under William Morton Wheeler, a scientist who made outstanding contributions to entomology. Under Wheeler, Kinsey worked almost completely autonomously, which suited both men quite well. For his doctoral thesis, Kinsey chose to do research on gall wasps. Kinsey began collecting samples of gall wasps with obsessive zeal. He traveled widely and took 26 detailed measurements on hundreds of thousands of gall wasps. His methodology made an important contribution to entomology as a science. Kinsey was granted a Sc.D. degree in 1919 by Harvard University. He published several papers in 1920 under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, introducing the gall wasp to the scientific community and laying out its phylogeny. Of the more than 18 million insects in the museum's collection, some 5 million are gall wasps collected by Kinsey.[6]

Marriage and family

Kinsey married Clara Bracken McMillen, whom he called Mac, in 1921. They had four children. Their first-born, Don, died from the acute complications of juvenile diabetes in 1927, just before his fifth birthday. Daughter Anne was born in 1924, daughter Joan in 1925, and son Bruce in 1928.


Kinsey died on August 25, 1956, at the age of 62. The cause of death was reported to be heart disease and pneumonia. This passage was written about his work in The New York Times:

The untimely death of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey takes from the American scene an important and valuable, as well as controversial, figure. Whatever may have been the reaction to his findings -- and to the unscrupulous use of some of them -- the fact remains that he was first, last, and always a scientist. In the long run it is probable that the values of his contribution to contemporary thought will lie much less in what he found out than in the method he used and his way of applying it. Any sort of scientific approach to the problems of sex is difficult because the field is so deeply overlaid with such things as moral precept, taboo, individual and group training, and long established behavior patterns. Some of these may be good in themselves, but they are no help to the scientific and empirical method of getting at the truth. Dr. Kinsey cut through this overlay with detachment and precision. His work was conscientious and comprehensive. Naturally, it will receive a serious setback with his death. Let us earnestly hope that the scientific spirit that inspired it will not be similarly impaired.[7]



Kinsey wrote a widely used high-school textbook, An Introduction to Biology, which was published in October 1926.[8] The book endorsed evolution and unified, at the introductory level, the previously separate fields of zoology and botany.[9]

Edible plants

Kinsey also co-wrote a classic book on edible plants with Merritt Lyndon Fernald published in 1943 called Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America. This book is still regarded as an authoritative source in the area, but is not generally associated with Kinsey. The original draft of the book was written in 1919-1920, while Kinsey was still a doctoral student at the Bussey Institute and Fernald was working at the Arnold Arboretum.[10]

Human sexual behavior and the Kinsey Reports

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 variations in mating practices among gall wasps led him to wonder how widely varied sexual practices among humans were. During this work, he developed a scale measuring sexual orientation, now known as the Kinsey Scale which ranges from 0 to 6, where 0 is exclusively heterosexual and 6 is exclusively homosexual; a rating of 7, for asexual, was added later by Kinsey's associates.

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.

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. Articles about him appeared in magazines such as Time, Life, Look, and McCall's. Kinsey's reports, which led to a storm of controversy, are regarded by many as an enabler of 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.

Significant publications

  • "New Species and Synonymy of American Cynipidae," in Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (1920)
  • "Life Histories of American Cynipidae," in Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (1920)
  • "Phylogeny of Cynipid Genera and Biological Characteristics," in Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (1920)
  • An Introduction to Biology (1926)
  • The Gall Wasp Genus Cynips: A Study in the Origin of Species (1930)
  • New Introduction to Biology (1933, revised 1938)
  • The Origin of Higher Categories in Cynips (1935)
  • Edible Wild Plants of Eastern North America (1943)
  • The Kinsey Reports:
    • Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948, reprinted 1998)
    • Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953, reprinted 1998)


Both Kinsey's work and private life have been the subject of an enduring controversy over the study of human sexuality (sometimes called sexology), Kinsey's ethical decisions, research methodology and the impact of Kinsey's work on sexual morality.

Interviews with pedophiles

In 1981 questions were raised of how Kinsey and his staff gathered the information to produce some of the data in the Kinsey Reports. Attention was directed to Tables 30-34 of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which report observations of orgasms in over three hundred children between the ages of five months and fourteen years.[11] Former and current directors of The Kinsey Institute confirmed that some of the information was gathered from nine pedophiles and that Kinsey chose not to report the pedophiles to the authorities, balancing what Kinsey saw as the need for their anonymity against the likelihood that their crimes would continue.[12][13] Current federal law and regulation on the protection of human subjects requiring informed consent and treatment of children as a "vulnerable population,"[14] and current Indiana law requiring that all citizens serve as "mandated reporters" of suspected cases of child abuse[15] now prohibit research conduct similar to Kinsey's practice regarding pedophilia.

Sex life

James H. Jones's biography, Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life, describes Kinsey as bisexual, and experimenting in masochism. He encouraged group sex involving his graduate students, wife and staff. Kinsey filmed sexual acts in the attic of his home as part of his research.[16] Biographer Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy explained that using Kinsey's home for the filming of sexual acts was done to ensure the films' secrecy, which would certainly have caused a scandal had the public become aware of them.[17][18]


Critics contend that Kinsey allowed bias in his work including over-representation of prisoners and prostitutes and his classification of couples who have lived together for at least a year as "married".[19][20] However, other writers have said that any bias that might exist is not as severe as suggested. For example, in the 1970s Paul Gebhard removed all suspect data (e.g., pertaining to prisoners and similar respondents), and recalculated significant sets of figures against results given by "100 percent" groups. He found only slight differences between the original and updated figures.[21]

Kinsey in the media

Detail of Time cover, August 24, 1953. Under Kinsey's name, the caption reads "Reflections in the mirror of Venus."

The popularity of Sexual Behavior in the Human Male prompted widespread media interest in 1948. Time magazine declared, "Not since Gone With the Wind had booksellers seen anything like it."[22] The first pop culture references to Kinsey appeared not long after the book's publication: "[R]ubber-faced comic Martha Raye [sold] a half-million copies of 'Ooh, Dr. Kinsey!'"[23] Cole Porter's song "Too Darn Hot," from the Tony Award–winning Broadway musical Kiss Me, Kate, devoted its bridge to an analysis of the Kinsey report and the "average man's" "favorite sport." In 1949, Mae West, reminiscing on the days when the word "sex" was rarely uttered, said of Kinsey, "That guy merely makes it easy for me. Now I don't have to draw 'em any blueprints...We are both in the same business...Except I saw it first."[24]

The publication of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female prompted even more intensive news coverage: Kinsey appeared on the cover of the August 24, 1953, issue of Time. The national newsmagazine featured two articles on the scientist, one focusing on his research career and new book,[25] the other on his background, personality, and lifestyle.[26] In the magazine's cover portrait, "Flowers, birds, and a bee surround Kinsey; the mirror-of-Venus female symbol decorates his bow tie."[27] The lead article concludes with the following observation: "'Kinsey...has done for sex what Columbus did for geography,' declared a pair of enthusiasts...forgetting that Columbus did not know where he was when he got there.... Kinsey's work contains much that is valuable, but it must not be mistaken for the last word."[25]

Just a few months after Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, the third season of the CBS television series I Love Lucy, featured the episode, 'Fan Magazine Interview' (aired February 8, 1954). Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) and her neighbor Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) pretended to be conducting a poll and wanted to ask a woman some questions. The woman replied, "Say, your name ain't Kinsey, is it?" The studio audience then gave out an uproar of laughter. This was reportedly I Love Lucy's most risque joke ever to evade the CBS censors and make it onto the family-rated show.

The 2000s have seen renewed interest in Kinsey. The musical Dr. Sex focuses on the relationship between Kinsey, his wife, and their shared lover Wally Matthews (based on Clyde Martin). The play—with score by Larry Bortniker, book by Bortniker and Sally Deering—premiered in Chicago in 2003, winning seven Jeff Awards. It was produced off-Broadway in 2005. The 2004 biographical film Kinsey, written and directed by Bill Condon, stars Liam Neeson as the scientist and Laura Linney as his wife. In 2004 as well, T. Coraghessan Boyle's novel about Kinsey, The Inner Circle, was published. The following year, PBS produced the documentary Kinsey in cooperation with the Kinsey Institute, which allowed access to many of its files. Mr. Sex, a BBC radio play by Steve Coombes concerning Kinsey and his work, won the 2005 Imison Award.[28]


  1. ^ American Experience | Kinsey | People & Events | PBS
  2. ^ "Alfred Charles Kinsey (1894-1956)". American Experience: Kinsy. PBS. Retrieved 2006-11-09.  
  3. ^ Weinberg, Martin S. (1976), Sex Research: Studies from the Kinsey Institute, Oxford University Press, pp. 25  
  4. ^ Gathorne-Hardy, Jonathan (2000), Sex, the Measure of All Things: A Life of Alfred C. Kinsey, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 37–38, ISBN 0253337348  
  5. ^ Christenson, Cornelia V. (1971), SKinsey: A Biography, Bloomington/London: Indiana Univeristy Press, pp. 29  
  6. ^ Yudell, Michael (July 1 1999), "Kinsey's Other Report", Natural History 108 (6), ISSN 0028-0712,  
  7. ^ Quoted in Pomeroy (1972).
  8. ^ Christenson, Cornelia V. (1971). Kinsey, A Biography. Indiana University Press. p. 57.  
  9. ^ Kinsey, Alfred Charles (1927). William Fletcher Russell. ed. An Introduction to Biology. Lippincott.  
  10. ^ Del Tredici, Peter. "The Other Kinsey Report." Natural History, ISSN 0028-0712, July 1, 2006, vol. 115, issue 6.
  11. ^ Reisman, Judith. "A PERSONAL ODYSSEY TO THE TRUTH". Retrieved 2008-01-07.  
  12. ^ Welsh-Huggins, Andrews (September 1995). "Conservative group attacks Kinsey data on children". Herald-Times. "'There couldn't have been any research if we turned them in,' he said. 'Of course we knew when we interviewed pedophiles that they would continue the activity, but we didn't do anything about that.' Providing such absolute assurances of anonymity was the only way to guarantee honest answers on such taboo subjects, said Gebhard."  
  13. ^ Pool, Gary (1996 September-October). "Sex, science, and Kinsey: a conversation with Dr. John Bancroft - head of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction". Humanist. Retrieved 2008-01-07.  
  14. ^ "US DHS Protection of Human Subjects". Retrieved 2009-02-08.  
  15. ^ "Indiana Code 31-33-5". Retrieved 2009-02-08.  
  16. ^ "Kinsey Establishes the Institute for Sex Research". American Experience: Kinsey. PBS. Retrieved 2008-01-03.  
  17. ^ The Kinsey Institute - [Publications]
  18. ^ The Kinsey Institute - [Publications]
  19. ^ Kinsey, Alfred. Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, p. 53.
  20. ^ Jones, James H. (1997). Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life. New York: Norton.
  21. ^ Gathorne-Hardy, Jonathan (2005). Kinsey: A Biography, p 285. London: Pimlico
  22. ^ "How to Stop Gin Rummy". Time. 1948-03-01.,9171,794270,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-11.  
  23. ^ "The Plot Against Sex in America". New York Times. 2004-12-12. Retrieved 2007-09-11.  
  24. ^ "People". Time. 1949-03-07.,9171,853645,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-11.  
  25. ^ a b "5,940 Women". Time. 1953-08-24.,9171,818752,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-11.  
  26. ^ "Dr. Kinsey of Bloomington". Time. 1953-08-24.,9171,818753-1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-09-11.  
  27. ^ Reinisch (1990), p. xvii.
  28. ^ "Imison Award 2005". Society of Authors. Retrieved 2007-09-12.  


  • Christenson, Cornelia (1971). Kinsey: A Biography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Gathorne-Hardy, Jonathan (1998). Alfred C. Kinsey: Sex the Measure of All Things. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0253337348
  • Jones, James H. (1997). Alfred C. Kinsey: A Public/Private Life. New York: Norton. ISBN 0756775507
  • Pomeroy, Wardell (1972). Dr. Kinsey and the Institute for Sex Research. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Reinisch, June M. (1990). The Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex. New York: St. Martin's. ISBN 0312052685
  • Reisman, Judith (2006). Kinsey's Attic: The Shocking Story of How One Man's Sexual Pathology Changed the World. WND Books. ISBN 1581824602

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Alfred Charles Kinsey, PhD (1894-06-23 - 1956-08-25) was a sex researcher, entomologist and zoologist who foundeed the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University at Bloomington (now called the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction).



Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (1948)

  • The history of medicine proves that in so far as man seeks to know himself and face his whole nature, he has become free from bewildered fear, despondent shame, or arrant hypocrisy. As long as sex is dealt with in the current confusion of ignorance and sophistication, denial and indulgence, suppression and stimulation, punishment and exploitation, secrecy and display, it will be associated with a duplicity and indecency that lead neither to intellectual honesty nor human dignity.
  • Males do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. Not all things are black nor all things white. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories. Only the human mind invents categories and tries to force facts into separated pigeon-holes. The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects. The sooner we learn this concerning human sexual behavior, the sooner we shall reach a sound understanding of the realities of sex.
  • The very general occurrence of the homosexual in ancient Greece, and its wide occurrence today in some cultures in which such activity is not taboo suggests that the capacity of an individual to respond erotically to any sort of stimulus, whether it is provided by another person of the same or opposite sex, is basic in the species.

Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953)

  • It cannot be too frequently emphasized that the behavior of any animal must depend upon on the nature of the stimulus which it meets, its anatomic and physiologic capacities, and its background of previous experience. Unless it has been conditioned by previous experience, an animal should respond identically to identical stimuli, whether they emanate from some part of its own body, from another individual of the same sex, or from an individual of the opposite sex.
  • The inherent physiologic capacity of an animal to respond to any sufficient stimulus seems, then, the basic explanation of the fact that some individuals respond to stimuli originating in other individuals of their own sex-and it appears to indicate that every individual could so respond if the opportunity offered and one were not conditioned against making such responses. There is no need of hypothesizing peculiar hormonal factors that make certain individuals especially liable to engage in homosexual activity, and we know of no data which prove the existence of hormonal factors (p. 758). There are no sufficient data to show that specific hereditary factors are involved. Theories of childhood attachments to one or the other parent, theories of fixation at some infantile level of sexual development, interpretations of homosexuality as neurotic or psychopathic behavior or moral degeneracy, and other philosophic interpretations are not supported by scientific research, and are contrary to the specific data on our series of female and male histories.
  • The impression that infra-human mammals more or less confine themselves to heterosexual activities is a distortion of the fact which appears to have originated in a man-made philosophy, rather than in specific observations of mammalian behavior. Biologists and psychologists who have accepted the doctrine that the only natural function of sex is reproduction, have simply ignored the existence of sexual activity which is not reproductive. They have assumed that heterosexual responses are a part of an animal's innate, "instinctive" equipment, and that all other types of sexual activity represent "perversions" of the "normal instincts". Such interpretations are, however, mystical. They do not originate in our knowledge of the physiology of sexual response (Chapter 15), and can be maintained only if one assumes that sexual function is in some fashion divorced from the physiologic processes which control other functions of the animal body.
  • The mammalian record thus confirms our statement that any animal which is not too strongly conditioned by some special sort of experience is capable of responding to any adequate stimulus. This is what we find in the more uninhibited segments of our human species, and this is what we find among young children who are not too rigorously restrained in their early sex play. Exclusive preferences and patterns of behavior, heterosexual or homosexual, come only with experience, or as a result of social pressures which tend to force an individual into an exclusive pattern of one or the other sort. Psychologists and psychiatrists, reflecting the mores of the culture in which they have been raised, have spent a good deal of time trying explain the origins of homosexual activity; but considering the physiology of sexual response and the mammalian backgrounds of human behavior, it is not so difficult to explain why a human animal does a particular thing sexually. It is more difficult to explain why each and every individual is not involved in every type of sexual activity.

Quotes about Alfred Kinsey

  • If Kinsey is right, I have only done what comes naturally, what the average American does secretly, drenching himself in guilt fixations and phobias because of his sense of sinning. I have never felt myself a sinner or committed what I would call a sin.
  • Alfred Kinsey was a very strange man. He was repressed sexually until quite a late age, and then expressed his sexuality in more and more bizarre forms as he grew older. His was a classic case of the appetite increasing with the feeding. Once you are on the treadmill of exploring sensation as the key to contentment, you have to experience more and more extreme things. I think this explains the logic of artistic production and how 'transgressive' becomes a term of praise.

See also

Kinsey (2004 movie)

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Alfred Charles Kinsey (June 23, 1894 - August 25,1956[1]) was an American biologist. He was interested in entomology and zoology. He is best known for the research he did on human sexuality. His research had a great influence on social and cultural values in many parts of the world. It also had a determining influence on the sexual revolution that happened in the 1960s.

He wrote some papers which became known as the Kinsey Reports. In them, he asked himself how widespread or differentiated human sexual practices were. He wondered, how much difference there was in the way different people had sex with each other. He developed the Kinsey Scale to measure sexual orientation. On one end of the scale, at the value 0, the individual is entirely heterosexual. On the other end, at value 6, he or she has a purely homosexual orientation.

Many people see him as the father of sexology.


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