Virginia E. Johnson (b. 1925)

Virginia E. Johnson
Virginia E. Johnson, ca. 1966

Virginia Eshelman Johnson was born on February 11, 1925 in Springfield, Missouri. After working as a singer and business writer, Johnson moved to St. Louis. In 1956 while studying for a degree in social anthropology at Washington University, Johnson applied for a job at the University’s medical school. She was hired as a research associate in Obstetrics and Gynecology working with Dr. William H. Masters.

In collaboration with Masters, Virginia E. Johnson pioneered the study of human sexuality under laboratory conditions, scientifically analyzing the physiological changes that occur in the male and female bodies during sexual stimulation. Their groundbreaking work resulted in the publication of the best-selling books, Human Sexual Response in 1966 and Human Sexual Inadequacy in 1970. In 1959, Masters and Johnson began to apply the knowledge gained from their research by treating couples for sexual inadequacy. In 1964 they established the Reproductive Biology Research Foundation in St. Louis. In 1973 they became co-directors of the Masters & Johnson Institute, also located in St. Louis. The two married in 1971 and continued to collaborate, even after their divorce in 1993, until the Institute closed in 1994 with the retirement of Masters.

Virginia Johnson’s other publications, co-authored with William H. Masters and Robert C. Kolodny, include Textbook of Sexual Medicine (1979), Human Sexuality (1982), CRISIS: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of AIDS (1988), Biological Foundations of Human Sexuality (1993), and Heterosexuality (1994).