Alfred Kinsey Biography

(American Biologist Who Founded The Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University)

Birthday: June 23, 1894 (Cancer)

Born In: Hoboken, New Jersey, United States

Alfred Charles Kinsey was an American professor, biologist and sexologist who is credited to have ushered in the “Sexual Revolution” through his extensive research on human sexuality. He was a bold and outspoken researcher who neither shied away from studying taboo topics nor was he afraid of kindling controversies with his findings. A professionally qualified biologist, his initial interest was in studying gall wasps. He did his doctoral thesis on the species and published ‘The Gall Wasp Genus Cynips: A Study of the Origin of Species’. In spite of becoming an expert in this field he felt that prestigious positions evaded him and thus changed the course of his career. His interest in human sexuality stemmed from studying the mating behavior of gall wasps and also from his own sexual feelings and experiences. He began his research on human sexuality during the 1930s—a time when the conservative American society considered sex to be a taboo subject. But he was undeterred by the public response and conducted thousands of interviews to collect data for his studies. When he revealed his findings in a book, the whole nation, especially the religious fraternity was shocked. He also created much controversy because of his open marriage and his sexual relations with other men.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Alfred Charles Kinsey

Died At Age: 62


Spouse/Ex-: Clara Bracken McMillen Kinsey

father: Alfred Seguine Kinsey

mother: Sarah Charles Kinsey

children: Anne Kinsey Corning, Bruce Kinsey, Donald, Joan Kinsey Reed

Biologists Zoologists

Died on: August 25, 1956

place of death: Bloomington, Indiana, United States

Cause of Death: Heart Ailment

Notable Alumni: Columbia High School

City: Hoboken, New Jersey

U.S. State: New Jersey

Founder/Co-Founder: Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University

More Facts

education: Harvard University, Bowdoin College, Columbia High School

  • 1

    What is Alfred Kinsey known for?

    Alfred Kinsey is known for his pioneering research on human sexuality, particularly his studies on sexual behavior and the Kinsey Reports.
  • 2

    What is the significance of the Kinsey Reports?

    The Kinsey Reports, published by Alfred Kinsey and his colleagues, played a pivotal role in changing societal perceptions and understanding of human sexuality in the mid-20th century.
  • 3

    What methodology did Alfred Kinsey use in his research?

    Alfred Kinsey employed detailed interviews and surveys to gather data on sexual behavior, leading to the development of the Kinsey Scale to measure sexual orientation.
  • 4

    What impact did Alfred Kinsey's work have on the field of sexology?

    Alfred Kinsey's research and publications helped to establish the field of sexology as a legitimate area of scientific study, contributing significantly to our understanding of human sexuality.
  • 5

    How did Alfred Kinsey's work influence discussions around sexual liberation?

    Alfred Kinsey's findings and advocacy for sexual freedom and acceptance helped spark discussions and movements towards sexual liberation and the recognition of diverse sexual orientations.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born on 23 June 1894 in Hoboken, New Jersey. He was the eldest of the three children born to Alfred Seguine Kinsey and Sarah Ann. His father, a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, was a very strict and religious man.
Alfred suffered from several medical conditions as a child and his parents being poor could not afford good quality treatment for him. He suffered from rickets which led to a curvature of the spine.
He was interested in nature from a young age and loved camping. He became a Boy Scout with his parents’ support and earned an Eagle Scout in 1913, becoming one of the earliest Eagle Scouts.
He attended Columbia High School where he shone academically and was also a good pianist. He developed a deep interest in botany, biology and zoology and decided to study botany in college, much to the chagrin of his father.
His authoritative father ordered him to study engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology to which Alfred reluctantly agreed. But he could not force himself to study engineering for long and left the course after two years.
In 1914, he enrolled at Bowdoin College in Maine where he studied entomology. He was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa society in 1916 and graduated magna cum laude with degrees in biology and psychology.
He went to the Bussey Institute at Harvard University to continue his studies. There he studied biology under William Morton Wheeler, an expert in entomology.
Alfred did his doctoral thesis on gall wasps. He traveled widely and collected thousands of specimens as samples. He earned his Sc. D degree in 1919.
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He was appointed as an assistant professor at the Indiana University in 1920. In 1926 he published a biology textbook, ‘An Introduction to Biology’ in which he unified the fields of zoology and botany which were previously treated as separate from each other.
He was promoted to full professorship in 1929. He published his works ‘The Gall Wasp Genus Cynips: A Study of the Origin of Species’ and ‘The Origin of Higher Categories in Cynips’ during the 1930s. However, he was getting disillusioned with his career at this time.
In 1938, he was offered an opportunity to lead a team-taught course on marriage and the family. He lectured on the biology of sexual stimulation, the mechanics of intercourse and contraception. His course became very popular.
He founded the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, a nonprofit research institute at Indiana University in 1947. The Institute’s mission was to encourage sexual health and research on sexual issues. The founding of this institute too was met with much controversy.
His book ‘Sexual Behavior in the Human Male’ was out in January 1948. It became a best-seller immediately upon its release even though it was a very thick volume of 804 pages. The book infuriated the religious leaders because of its sexual content.
In 1953, he published ‘Sexual Behavior in the Human Female’ which created even more controversy than its predecessor. The book was based on almost 6000 sexual histories.
Major Work
He is best known for the Kinsey Reports which consist of his two books on human sexual behavior: ‘Sexual Behavior in the Human Male’ (1948) and ‘Sexual Behavior in the Human Female’ (1953). The reports though highly popular also kindled considerable controversy due to the taboo attached to the subject of sex.
Awards & Achievements
He was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor museum walk which celebrates LGBT history and people, in 2012.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Clara Bracken McMillen in 1921. His estranged father refused to attend this function. The couple’s first born son died as a child; they had three other children who lived to adulthood.
He was bisexual. His marriage with Clara was an open one and both the parties had the freedom to have sexual relations with other people also.
He suffered from ill health during his later years and died on 25 August 1956 at the age of 62.
Facts About Alfred Kinsey
Alfred Kinsey had a passion for gardening and spent much of his free time tending to his plants and flowers.
He was an avid collector of rare books and had an extensive personal library that he cherished.
Kinsey was known for his love of animals, particularly his pet dogs, whom he treated as cherished family members.
He had a talent for playing the piano and often entertained friends and colleagues with his musical abilities.
Kinsey was a dedicated teacher who mentored numerous students throughout his career, leaving a lasting impact on the field of sex research.
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