Sex on the brain: the rise and fall of German sexual science

Endeavour. 2008 Jun;32(2):64-9. doi: 10.1016/j.endeavour.2008.04.004.


Throughout the nineteenth century, German medical, scientific and legal scholars found themselves puzzled and engaged by the diverse forms of human sexuality. Psychiatrists like Richard von Krafft-Ebing who were interested in explaining deviance encountered scientifically trained advocates for emancipation like Magnus Hirschfeld, and the result was the new--if unstable--discipline of sexual science. Because they based arguments for social intervention on knowledge of nature and the body, the field's proponents--like the advocates of eugenics and racial hygiene--argued that they were biologists. After 1900, this mutual biological engagement of sexual science and eugenics revealed itself in overlapping debates between the proponents of both fields.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / history*
  • Eugenics / history
  • Germany
  • History, 19th Century
  • Homosexuality / history
  • Humans
  • Hygiene / history*
  • Male
  • Sexology / history*
  • Sexual Behavior / history*

Personal name as subject

  • Richard von Krafft-Ebing
  • Magnus Hirschfeld