Tag Archives: Kinsey

100 Years of the Rockefeller Foundation

Electrophysiological lab at McGill University, 1951


In celebration of its centennial the Rockefeller Foundation has digitized and made available online a number of items from the Rockefeller Archive Center. Among the material now online that may be of interest to historians of psychology are items related to funding for the social sciences and psychiatry, as well as material related to the Bureau of Social Hygiene and the Kinsey Reports (left). Specific items of interest include a 1968 memorandum on “A social psychological analysis of black students at Oberlin College and suggested institutional adjustments to meet their needs,” and the 1925 “Report of committee on inter-board conference on mental hygiene, psychology, psychiatry, etc.” The full collection of documents, images, and videos can be searched here.

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Interview w/ Hegarty, Pettit, & Serlin

In 1922 the National Research Council’s Division of Medical Sciences, together with the Bureau of Social Hygiene and the Rockefeller Foundation, established a Committee for Research in Problems of Sex (CRPS). The committee went on to operate for more than four decades, funding a variety of projects related to problems of sex, broadly conceived. This included projects that spanned the fields of morphology, physiology, and psychology, and perhaps most famously included funding for Alfred Kinsey’s work on human sexuality.

The just released August issue of History of Psychology, includes several articles that detail some of the less discussed work funded by the committee. Together, these articles make up the issue’s Special Section: Beyond Kinsey, Sex and American Psychology. The section’s introduction is provided by Peter Hegarty who then goes on in his article to discuss the work of Catharine Cox Miles on the psychology of sex. Next, David Serlin discusses psychologist Carney Landis’s work on the importance of touch in the sexuality of physically disabled women, while Michael Pettit discusses Frank Beach’s investigation of the queer life of the lab rat. The section ends with commentary by Alexandra Rutherford. (Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below the interview, while full details on all the articles included in this issue of History of Psychology can be found in an earlier AHP post here.)

AHP had the pleasure of interviewing each of the authors, whose articles comprise this special section, about their work. The full text of this interview follows below.

Peter Hegarty (left) is a social psychologist with interests in the history of psychology and LGBT psychology at the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom.

AHP: Your article focuses on the work of the little known female psychologist, Catharine Cox Miles. Briefly, who was she and why has she often been overlooked in the history of psychology?

PH: Catharine Cox was a talented Germanist who was honored for her relief work in Berlin with the Society of Friends in the aftermath of World War 1. Her PhD was a ‘historiometric’ attempt to determine the childhood IQs of famous figures from historical sources. After some time spent in clinical psychology in the 1920s, she returned to Stanford where she worked with Terman on the measurement of ‘masculinity-femininity.’ She married psychologist Walter Miles – who was recently widowed – shortly after returning to Stanford, and was known as Catharine Cox Miles thereafter. The Miles couple collaborated on research on cognitive aging. They moved to Yale during the Terman-Miles collaboration, where Catharine was the only Professor of Clinical Psychology during the 1930s. She wrote handbook chapters on sex – which I analyze here – and on gifted children after her departure from Stanford. She also wrote a case history of a person with an intersex condition for an edited book marking Terman’s retirement. After World War II, Catharine and Walter Miles spent some time living and teaching in Turkey.

It would be wrong to say that Miles has been “forgotten.” Certainly her work is frequently enough mentioned in histories of intelligence testing and her career has been mentioned in histories of women psychologists of her generation. However, there has been a tendency to conflate her views with those of Lewis Terman, her PhD advisor. In this article I hoped to bring out aspects of Miles’ thought about sex that distinguished her views from Terman’s.

AHP: Although Miles and Lewis Terman co-authored the CRPS funded volume Sex and Personality, they did not agree on many aspects of the psychology of sex. Can you tell us about some of these differences? Continue reading Interview w/ Hegarty, Pettit, & Serlin

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August HoP: Sex, Mesmerism, Addiction, & More

The August 2012 issue of History of Psychology is now online. Included in this issue is a Special Section: Beyond Kinsey, Sex and American Psychology, which examines some of the psychological research funded by the Committee for Research in Problems of Sex. Stay tuned to AHP later in the week for a special interview with Peter Hegarty, Michael Pettit, and David Serlin, the authors whose articles make up this section.

In addition to the Special Section: Beyond Kinsey, Sex and American Psychology, the issue includes article that address the history of addiction interventions, the roots of psychology in Italy, behavior analysis in Brazil and its pedagogical connections, Lurena Brackett and mesmerism in the nineteenth century United States, and Jean Piaget’s psychological factory. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Special Section: Beyond Kinsey, Sex and American Psychology.

“Beyond Kinsey: The committee for research on problems of sex and American psychology,” by Peter Hegarty. The abstract reads,

This introduction to the Special Section of History of Psychology argues for greater attention to psychological research on sex in the decades before the publication of the Kinsey volumes. Drawing on scholarship by Adele Clarke, Donna Haraway and Wade Pickren, this introduction argues for the centrality of the psychological research projects funded by the Committee for Research on Problems of Sex (CRPS), chaired by psychologist Robert Yerkes after 1921. The three individual papers all speak to opposition to the functionalist approach to sex often attributed to Yerkes’ CRPS.

“Getting miles away from Terman: Did the CRPS fund Catharine Cox Miles’s unsilenced psychology of sex?” by Peter  Hegarty. The abstract reads, Continue reading August HoP: Sex, Mesmerism, Addiction, & More

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The Intellectual Response to the Kinsey Report

The February 2012 issue of History of the Human Sciences includes an article that may be of interest to AHP‘s readers. In “‘A most interesting chapter in the history of science’: Intellectual responses to Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male” Donna Drucker explores the various academic responses to Kinsey’s extensive mid-century study of male sexual behaviour. Drucker also touches upon the intellectual response to Kinsey’s later companion piece on female sexual behaviour, particularly how this study’s appearance during the Cold War era provoked specific kinds of fears. Title, author, and abstract follow below.

“‘A most interesting chapter in the history of science’: Intellectual responses to Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male,” by Donna J. Drucker. The abstract reads,

There were three broad categories of academic responses to Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (Kinsey, Pomeroy and Martin, 1948): method; findings; and broader reflections on the book’s place in American social life and democracy. This article focuses primarily on archival academic responses to Kinsey’s work that appeared in the year following the book’s publication. Many academics agreed that some aspects of Kinsey’s method were flawed and that his interpretations sometimes overreached his raw data. Nonetheless, they also agreed that no one else had gathered such a diverse sampling of interviewees whose behaviors Kinsey could use to create new interpretive models of human sexuality. As Kinsey’s research was deliberately interdisciplinary, his research and statistical methodologies began to catch on in the human sciences and to encourage academics and intellectuals to rethink their human science practices. As academics reflected on the volume’s larger meaning in American life, several of them thought it exemplified the worst American values (emphases on money and size) while others saw the very existence of the Male volume as an excellent example of the ability of free citizens to pursue and to publish research on any topic. While members of the American intelligentsia championed the Male volume and its findings as democratic, the reception of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin and Gebhard, 1953), published at an intense moment of the cold war, was viewed as a communist threat to American security for revealing the sexual secrets of the public.

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