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1966 Twenty-five Years Ago

May 2024
1min read


In April Dr. William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson published the results of eleven years’ research in their book Human Sexual Response . The volume would become a national best seller despite writing technical enough to require a glossary and too dry to please readers hoping for descriptions more colorful than those of “reacting units” experiencing “tension increment.” Masters and Johnson reported on 382 female and 312 male volunteers who had been observed in thousands of couplings as well as alone. The volunteers all came from the St. Louis area. They were paid for their trouble.

Dr. Masters, who had worked previously in obstetrics and gynecology, had begun studying prostitutes in the mid-fifties. He then recruited Virginia Johnson, a psychologist, and discovered that ordinary people could be persuaded to submit their sexual lives to clinical scrutiny if interviewed by a man and a woman together in a scientific environment.

Many reviews of Human Sexual Response expressed shock that human sex had been directly observed and frustration with the authors’ cool jargon. But the book was well received, and the researchers took their case to television talk shows. “Science by itself has no moral dimension,” Masters told one reporter. “But it does seek to establish truth. And upon this truth morality can be built.”

On April 28, with twenty-five seconds remaining before his Boston Celtics won their eighth straight National Basketball Association championship, their coach, Red Auerbach, who had announced his retirement, lit up a cigar. The gesture set off a celebratory roar throughout Boston Garden. The only drama in this seventh and final game of the championship came in the last seconds, when the Los Angeles Lakers drew within two points of the Celtics for the only time all night. The game ended 95-93, making Auerbach’s Celtics champions for the ninth time in ten years, an accomplishment unique in professional sports. Bill Russell, who scored twenty-five points in the game, would double as a player and the National Basketball Association’s first black coach the following year.

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