Comfort, Alex

▪ 2001

      British writer (b. Feb. 10, 1920, London, Eng.—d. March 26, 2000, Northamptonshire, Eng.), was, to his chagrin, primarily identified as the author of The Joy of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking (1972); the book was the free-love generation's homage to the Kama-sutra. Complete with line drawings featuring a merely “ordinary-looking” couple, Joy eased the anxieties of even those most embarrassed to explore the possibility that sex could actually be fun and got whole nations into the act when the groundbreaking work was translated into two dozen languages. This was no small feat for a book that was reportedly written in only two weeks' time by a professed amateur. A lucid and engaging writer, Comfort published his first book, The Silver River (1938), at the age of 18 and went on to write 50 more books, including novels, volumes of poetry, and scientific texts on physiology, biology, and aging. Comfort, a pacifist, protested the indiscriminate bombing of Germany during World War II and was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. In addition, he earned three academic degrees and held a variety of academic and medical posts at respected institutions in England and in California.

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▪ British author
byname of  Alexander Comfort 
born Feb. 10, 1920, London, Eng.
died March 26, 2000, Banbury, Oxfordshire

      English gerontologist and author, best known for his books on sexual behaviour.

      Comfort was educated at the University of Cambridge (B.A., 1943; M.A., 1945) and the University of London (Ph.D., 1949) and qualified in medicine at the Royal College of Physicians and London Hospital. He taught and did research both in London and in the United States (1974–91).

      Comfort's theories on aging are expressed in The Biology of Senescence (1956) and The Process of Aging (1964), the latter being an introduction to gerontology for the layperson. He advocated greater freedom in sexual behaviour in books ranging from the scholarly Sexual Behaviour in Society (1950) to the best-selling The Joy of Sex (1972), which was described as a “gourmet guide to lovemaking” and featured unself-conscious text and illustrations. Translated into more than 20 languages, it was followed by More Joy of Sex (1974) and The New Joy of Sex (1991). Among Comfort's other books on sexual problems and practices are Sex in Society (1975) and Sexual Consequences of Disability (1978).

      Though chiefly known for his works on sex, Comfort was a prolific author, writing on a diverse range of subjects. At age 17 he wrote his first book, The Silver River (1938), a diary of his travels in the South Atlantic. In 1941 he made his fiction debut with No Such Liberty. Other novels followed, as well as several poetry collections. A noted anarchist, Comfort wrote numerous works on anarchy, including the highly influential Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State (1950). He was also active in the nuclear disarmament movement.

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Universalium. 2010.

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