Alfred Kinsey - obituary

New York Times , August 26, 1956

Dr. Kinsey is Dead; Sex Researcher, 62


Bloomington, Ind., Aug. 25--Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, who gained world-wide fame for his books on human sexual behavior, died today of a heart ailment and pneumonia. He was 62 years old.

The zoologist had been in ill health for six months. He was admitted to Bloomington Hospital Wednesday, but his condition had not been considered critical until last night.

Dr. Kinsey's illness had interrupted his busy schedule of travels to collect material for new sex- research projects--on men in prison, on Europeans and on animals.

His wife, Mrs. Clara Bracken McMillen Kinsey, one of his early students at Indiana University, was with him when he died. Also surviving are a son, Bruce, of Cleveland, and two daughters, Mrs. Robert Reed, wife of a physician in Columbus, Ind., and Mrs. Warren Corning of Winnetka, Ill.

Upon Dr. Kinsey's death, Herman Wells, president of Indiana University, issued a statement calling the Kinsey reports "pioneer studies of great significance* * *part of the scientific heritage of the entire world."

The funeral will be held at 10:30 A. M. Monday at the Day Funeral Home here.

Used Gallop Poll Methods

Dr. Kinsey became famous as the author of the first mass scientific survey of human sexual behavior. To this subject he applied the method of the Gallup Poll--principally personal, confidential interviews of a selected sampling of the population.

His conclusions gave statistical evidence for what many clinicians--and indeed many laymen--had guessed might be the sexual conduct of the American people today. However, the bald statement in plain print of such deeply private matters titillated millions of readers of popular journals.

His conclusions were both attacked and defended. The attackers proved more vigorous.

They included some leading psychologists, such as Dr. Karl A. Menninger, civic groups like the National Council of Women, and an investigating committee of the House of Representatives. In May, 1954, Dr. Kinsey complained that some religious groups were bringing pressure upon his sponsors to withdraw the support that had kept his Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University going since 1942.

Two years ago, the Rockefeller Foundation, major factor in his support, discontinued its aid of $100,000 a year. Dr. Kinsey was unable to replace this with other backing, and actually feared, close friends said yesterday, that his institute and long-range projects would end. Despite the handicap of limited funds, he was engaged at his death, ink a survey of the sex problems of prisoners in the United States.

Alfred Charles Kinsey was born on June 23, 1894, in Hoboken, N. J., a son of Alfred S. Kinsey, an engineering instructor at Stevens Institute of Technology. The son worked his way through Bowdoin College, graduating as a Bachelor of Science in 1916.

For the next four years, Dr. Kinsey was an instructor in biology and zoology at Harvard, while working for a Doctor of Science degree there. His association with Indiana began in 1920, when he went there as a specialist in plant and insect life. He rose from assistant professor to full professor of zoology by 1929 and became the world's foremost authority on the gall wasp.

In 1942, with Rockefeller Foundation funds and National Research Council sponsorship, he set up his Institute for Sex Research, Inc., and Dr. Kinsey and his aides began their statistical study of sex conduct of men and women in the United States.

The fourteen researchers interviewed 5,300 white men and boys and 5,940 women and girls, each interview encompassing up to 300 extremely personal questions. The interviewers even examined the sex life of babies as young as 2 years, asking the questions of their mothers.

The first book, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male," appeared in 1948 with an explosion of publicity. Some of the conclusions of the survey were that homosexual acts were much more common than had been supposed, that the average man attained the peak of virility at about 16 or 17, and steadily declined thereafter, and that men who began sex activity early held their power longer.

The 800-page book sold about 500,000 copies, despite its dry, scientific tone and price of $6.50. Discussions for and against it went on for several years in newspapers, magazines and women's clubs. Even books about the Kinsey report found a market. All royalties from the Kinsey volumes were plowed back into the research work.

The sequel, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female," appeared in 1953. It did not sell nearly so well, not for lack of public curiosity, but because significant excerpts were widely published by newspapers and magazines throughout the nation.


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