Friday, July 26, 2013

Virginia Johnson Masters, sex research pioneer, dead at 88

On Wednesday of this week, just a few miles from my home in Missouri, Virginia Johnson Masters passed away at age 88.

Most of you are aware of the pioneering work in human sexual physiology she and her late ex-husband, William Masters, undertook at Washington University in St. Louis during the mid-20th century.  I briefly underscored that work in several of my textbooks:
"The study of human reproduction, and especially sexual function, has many cultural implications. So it is no wonder that American researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson encountered a great deal of controversy during their decades of pioneering work in the field of human sex and reproduction. They were the first to study human sexual physiology in the laboratory. William Masters was a gynecologist (physician specializing in women's health) and Virginia Johnson was a psychologist. In 1966, their book Human Sexual Response clearly explained the physiology of sex for the first time. Besides making discoveries in the physiology of human sex and reproduction, they also developed therapies for treating sex-related conditions, and they trained therapists from around the world. In addition to the broad fields of biology, medicine, psychology, and the behavioral sciences, the pioneering work of Masters and Johnson paved the way for advances in such diverse and specialized areas of knowledge as comparative neuroscience and social dynamics. Today, there are many opportunities to apply knowledge of reproductive science in a variety of professions."

You may also recall my previous article Masters of Sex, in which I related some of my experiences with Johnson's late ex-husband and collaborator, Bill Masters.

With the Showtime network about to debut their new miniseries Masters of Sex, in which the character of Virginia Johnson plays a pivotal role, students will likely be bringing their curiosity about Masters and Johnson's work to their A&P courses.

Want to know more?

Virginia Johnson, Widely Published Collaborator in Sex Research, Dies at 88
  • The New York Times Published: July 25, 2013
  • Detailed obituary

Masters of Sex
  • by Kevin Patton
  • The A&P Professor May 12, 2009
  • Brief article about Masters, Johnson, the recent book about them (on which the Showtime series is based), and Masters's unforgettable presentation at the HAPS Conference in 1995

Masters of Sex
  • by Thomas Maier
  • Basic Books April 13, 2009 432 p.
  • An amazing book about Masters and Johnson's story.  HIGHLY recommended reading for all A&P teachers!

Related textbook content

  • Anatomy & Physiology 8th ed.  Chapters 34 and 35
  • Essentials of Anatomy & Physiology Chapters 24 and 25  
  • The Human Body in Health and Disease 6th ed. Chapter 23 (see bio on p. 610-611) 
  • Structure & Function of the Body 14th ed. Chapter 23 (see bio on p. 459)