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The Masters & Johnson Collection

Update, July 25, 2013:

Virginia Johnson Masters passed away on July 24, 2013, in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Julia Heiman, Kinsey Institute Director, remarked on her legacy:

Masters was the MD (a Ob/Gyn accomplished surgeon by training) and Johnson was his research assistant and co-therapist. While she did not have the credentials usually associated with research and treatment, her presence and social skills made the research more palatable—perhaps for the research volunteers as well as the general public, since then they were a male-female team studying and measuring men an women’s responses. The combination of the two may have been critical for the research to begin, continue and to have the lasting impact it did.

The first research on ‘sexual response’ was unique and surprising. No one had, with a fairly large number of men and women in a laboratory setting, tried to measure a number of  physical responses (heart rate, lubrication, bp, penile and vaginal size charges) during sexual stimulation and orgasm.

Then the second book, on ‘treatment for sexual dysfunctions’, used a very non-medical approach (no drugs, physical aids, or surgery), incorporating behavioral treatments for sexual dysfunctions in men and women. And doing so within two short weeks of daily treatment.

The Kinsey Institute announces the “Masters and Johnson” collection at The Kinsey Institute library. The collection documents the work of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, who from 1957 to the 1980s transformed our understanding of sexual response and sex therapy.

The collection, donated by Virginia Johnson and her family, includes letters, records, correspondence, research papers, media coverage, books, paintings, awards and certificates.

William Masters. Photo by William Dellenbeck.

In the late 1950s, Masters and Johnson pioneered research into the understanding human sexual response, dysfunction, and disorders through the direct observation of anatomical and physiological sexual responses of human subjects.  They began their joint work in 1957 at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis before founding the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation (later re-named the Masters and Johnson Institute), where they worked from 1978-1994, conducting independent sexological research and organizing training workshops for researchers, educators, and therapists. 

Dr. Masters died in 2001 at the age of 85.

Virginia Johnson. Photo by Bob Levin

Among the treasures in the collection are communications with the research community and the general public. 

On file are correspondence with Albert Ellis, Lonnie Barbach, Frank Beach, Hugh Hefner, Morton Hunt, Richard Green, Alan Guttmacher, Erwin Haeberle and many others, and inquiries and letters from Argentina, Chile, England, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, and Venezuela.  Also included in this series are administrative files from the Masters and Johnson Institute’s workshops and training programs.

William Masters and Virginia Johnson have been widely recognized for their contributions to sexual, psychological, and psychiatric research, particularly for their theory of a four-stage model of sexual response (also known as, “the human sexual response cycle”) and their study of sexual response among the elderly.  Numbered among their awards are acknowledgements from the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists in 1978, and the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists in 1985 and 1992.  The Society for Sex Research and Therapy grant the Masters and Johnson annual award for research.

Major Publications of Masters and Johnson:

  • Masters, William H., Virginia E. Johnson. Human Sexual Response. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books, 1966.
  • Masters, William H., Virginia E.  Johnson. Human Sexual Inadequacy. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books, 1970.
  • Masters, William H., Virginia E. Johnson. The Pleasure Bond. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books, 1974.
  • Masters, William H., Virginia E. Johnson, and Robert C. Kolodny.  Ethical Issues in Sex Therapy and Research.  Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1977. 
  • Masters, William H., Virginia E. Johnson. Homosexuality in Perspective. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books, 1979.
  • Masters, William H., Virginia E. Johnson, and Robert C. Kolodny.  Masters and Johnson on Sex and Human Loving.  Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1986.
  • Masters, William H., Virginia E. Johnson, and Robert C. Kolodny.  Heterosexuality.  New York: Gramercy Books, 1994.

Liana Zhou, Director of the Library and Archives, acknowledges volunteer Saundra Taylor, who provided guidance to students and staff with preservation, organization, and transportation of this extraordinary collection, and gives special thanks to the Johnson family:

“In many ways, this collection enhances the 20th Century Sex Researchers’ Archival Collection at The Kinsey Institute. We are very grateful to Virginia and her family for entrusting the Kinsey Institute with this significant archive.” 

If you'd like to access this collection or contribute to the archive, contact Shawn Wilson at The Kinsey Library. 


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