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Origin of the Institute

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The beginnings of The Kinsey Institute can be traced to 1938 when the Association of Women Students petitioned Indiana University for a course for students who were married or contemplating marriage. Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, a Harvard-trained professor of zoology, was asked to coordinate the course.

In preparing for the course, Dr. Kinsey discovered that few scientific data existed on human sexual behavior. What studies did exist were in general either extremely value-laden or based on very small numbers of clinical patients, so Dr. Kinsey began collecting his own data. Eventually he and his research associates obtained more than 18,000 sexual histories based on in-depth, face-to-face interviews.

By 1941, Kinsey's pioneering work had earned the financial support of the National Research Council, at that time funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. This support continued until 1954. In 1947, in order to guarantee absolute confidentiality to individuals interviewed and to provide a secure, permanent location for the growing collection of interview data and other materials Dr. Kinsey was collecting on human sexuality, the institute was established as a not-for-profit corporation affiliated with Indiana University.

Several names for the fledgling institute were discussed ("Indiana Sex Research Institute," "Kinsey Research Institute," "Institute for the Study of Human Behavior," and "Sex Research Institute") before the "Institute for Sex Research" was decided upon. Dr. Kinsey transferred ownership of all his research materials to the new institute for $1.00. The first trustees of the Institute were Alfred Kinsey, Paul Gebhard, Clyde Martin, and Wardell Pomeroy.

The purposes of the Institute listed in the incorporation were:

...to continue research on human sexual behavior; to accept, hold, use, and administer research materials, a library, case histories, and other materials relating to the project.

A short video clip shows Dr. Kinsey telling an interviewer why he began his sexuality research.
See also a photographic history of Dr. Kinsey's project.

For information on the role of Indiana University President Herman B Wells in the development of the Institute for Sex Research, and as a dogged protector of both Dr. Kinsey's research, and of intellectual freedom at Indiana University, see Alma Pater: Herman B Wells and the Rise of Indiana University.

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