Foto: Kinsey Instutite

In memoriam

Paul Gebhard

Paul Gebhard was one of the most knowledgeable and most agreeable persons I ever met in our field. I first got to know him in 1981. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of Kinsey’s death, the founder’s name was officially added to the institute: “Kinsey Institute for Sex Research”. With my then closest colleague Wardell Pomeroy I had flown from San Francisco to Bloomington, where the entire old staff, including Clyde Martin and Bill Dellenback had assembled as well as Kinsey’s widow and his grown-up children. It was a historical, very enjoyable meeting.

When it turned out that Kinsey’s library contained virtually the entire German sexological literature before 1933, and that, until that date, nobody at the institute had been able to read it, Paul asked me to examine it more closely and to use it for a series of publications. Thus, on the spot, he made me a research associate of the institute. In this role, I travelled repeatedly between San Francisco and Bloomington, where I copied hundreds of pages, which I studied at home in California. Reading this material, I soon realized that the year 1983 would mark a triple anniversary for German sexology: 75 years since the publication of the first sexological  journal  (Hirschfeld’s  Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft  1908), 70 years since the founding of the first sexological societies (Hirschfeld’s and Bloch’s "Ärztliche Gesellschaft für Sexualwissenschaft und Eugenik" and  Moll’s "Internationale Gesellschaft für Sexualforschung" 1913), and 50 years since the ransacking and closing of the first sexological institute (Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft 1933).

Armed with this insight, I was able to obtain German and Austrian funding for a historical exhibition. Using the material of the Kinsey Institute, we produced 50 large display boards under the title “The Birth of Sexology in Berlin 1908-1933”. The exhibition was shown at the WAS congress in Washington DC in 1983, where an accompanying illustrated brochure was freely distributed to all congress participants. (It was later also translated into German.) Subsequently, and for several years, the 50 boards travelled across the Atlantic and were shown in several cities in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Hong, Kong, and China, where they now remain. In addition, I was able to produce some less important publications in English and German.

Without Paul Gebhard’s support, none of this would have been possible. Whenever I visited him in Bloomington, I enjoyed yet another chance to learn about sex research in general and to profit from his vast experience. From both Pomeroy and Gebhard I also learned a lot about Kinsey himself, a true pioneer, whom I respected all the more once I had discovered his German library holdings. (Kinsey himself had not been able to read them. He had only some sections of some books translated for his “Reports”.) Gebhard, of course, had his own perspective on Kinsey. In any case, I very fondly remember our long talks in his office, his graciousness and generosity as a host, his friendly, supportive attitude, and his dry sense of humor. It was a great privilege for me to have known him – a great man and role model in an area of science that is still embattled today.

Erwin J. Haeberle