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Timeline: Alfred Kinsey's Life, and Sex Research and Social Policies in America

1873-1947 | 1948-2003  


Congress passes the Comstock Law, defining contraceptives as obscene material and making it illegal for them to be sent through the U.S. mail or transported from state to state. At the time, the United States is the only Western nation to criminalize birth control.


June 23: Alfred Charles Kinsey is born in Hoboken, New Jersey, the first of three children of Alfred Seguine Kinsey and Sarah Charles Kinsey.


The Kinsey family moves from gritty Hoboken to the suburban town of South Orange, New Jersey.


Young Alfred becomes fascinated with nature, spending afternoons and weekends rambling through the hills and marshes around South Orange, watching birds and collecting plant and bug specimens.


Kinsey summers at a YMCA camp at Lake Wawayanda, New Jersey, his first experience of summer camp life. He will repeat it as a camper and later a counselor into the early years of his marriage.


Young Kinsey in scout uniform with friend 1910 Kinsey joins the Boy Scouts. He will become an Eagle Scout in 1913.


Kinsey graduates from high school the valedictorian of his class. The official "class prophecy" describes him as the "second Darwin." That fall, he enrolls in Hoboken's Stevens Institute of Technology, where his father teaches shop practice.


Kinsey withdraws from Stevens, severs ties with his father, and transfers to Bowdoin College in Maine, where he majors in biology.


Kinsey graduates from Bowdoin. That fall, he enters the Bussey Institute, Harvard's Graduate School of Applied Biology, where he will specialize in entomology and later write his dissertation on gall wasps.


Woodrow Wilson April 6: President Woodrow Wilson declares war on Germany. By June, conscription will begin, requiring all male citizens to register for the U.S. Army.


Congress amends the Espionage Act by passing the Sedition Act, making it a criminal offense to express any opinions that contradict or slander the United States government.


Kinsey receives his Doctor of Science from Harvard. He is granted a one-year traveling fellowship with which he travels south and west across the country, collecting more gall wasps.


Kinsey moves to Bloomington, Indiana, to take up a teaching position as an assistant professor of entomology at Indiana University. He meets Clara Bracken McMillan, his future wife.


June 3: Alfred and Clara are married. On their honeymoon they go to Niagara Falls, visit Kinsey's parents in New Jersey, and go hiking in the White Mountains of New England. They will have four children together: Donald (born 1922, died 1926), Anne (born 1924), Joan (born 1925), and Bruce (born 1928).


Kinsey publishes a high-school textbook, An Introduction to Biology. Notably in the wake of the Scopes "monkey" trial of 1925, Kinsey comes out strongly in favor of Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.


gall wasps trip gall 1920 - in field Kinsey takes entomology graduate students on extended field trips to gather gall wasps. He seizes the opportunity to engage his students in conversations about sex. He finds himself attracted to his favorite graduate student, Ralph Voris.


Charles Lindbergh becomes the first aviator to fly non-stop across the Atlantic.


Kinsey publishes his magnum opus on gall wasps, The Gall Wasp Genus Cynips: A Study in the Origin of Species. The tome describes 93 species of Cynips -- 48 of which are new.


The American economy hits an all-time low when the stock market crashes, wiping out many people's savings. The new decade will bring unemployment and widespread poverty during the hard years of the Great Depression.


Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany. In a few short years, he will force Europe toward a second world war with his aggressive military actions and systematic persecution of Jews.


Dust bowl farmer raising fence to keep it from being buried in sand, Destructive dust storms ravage the American heartland. The drought is the worst ever, covering more than 75 percent of the country and affecting 27 states severely.


Kinsey publishes a second volume on gall wasps, The Origin of Higher Categories in Cynips. The same year, he delivers his first academic paper on sex, entitled "Biological Aspects of Some Social Problems," to an Indiana University faculty discussion group.


In response to student requests for sex education, Kinsey starts Indiana University's marriage course. The same year, he starts taking students' sexual histories, the first of more than 18,000 that he and later his research assistants are to gather.


Kinsey travels to Chicago on several occasions to interview homosexuals. On these trips, Kinsey has sexual encounters with other men.


Controversy surrounding the marriage course forces Kinsey to choose between teaching and research. He chooses research, and applies to the National Research Council's Committee for Research in Problems of Sex for a grant to support his work. In 1941, the committee awards him $1,600, launching a stormy, decade-long relationship with the committee and its principal benefactor, the Rockefeller Foundation.


Kinsey at punch card machine pomeroy and Martin, 1948 Clyde Martin, an Indiana University alumnus, joins Kinsey's research staff. By this time, the research project is generating so much data that Kinsey uses punch cards and mechanical calculating machines to analyze the results.

December 8: Following a surprise Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S. enters World War II.


Pomeroy interview Wardell Pomeroy, a prison psychologist for the state of Indiana, joins Kinsey's research staff.


May: A week after Adolf Hitler commits suicide, Germany surrenders to the Allies.

August 14: Less than a week after the U.S. drops two atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan formally surrenders, ending World War II.

After the war ends and American veterans return home, women who have filled a broad variety of wartime workforce roles begin to return to "pink collar" secretarial or clerical jobs. The prevailing ideal for women emphasizes home and family; the Baby Boom begins.


Kinsey with Gebhard Paul Gebhard, a Harvard-trained anthropologist, joins Kinsey's research staff.


Kinsey's Indiana University-based Institute for Sex Research is formally incorporated.

1873-1947 | 1948-2003  

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