Charles Knowlton, sexuality education pioneer

Back in 1832, a Massachusetts physician named Charles Knowlton published a pamphlet on sexuality education, including instructions for contraception. Titled The Fruits of Philosophy: The Private Companion of Young Married People, Knowlton wrote his pamphlet for young married couples. He printed it privately (and anonymously), and distributed it to his patients.

Knowlton, a freethinker who didn’t attend church services, apparently got to know the famous freethinker Abner Kneeland. Kneeland published Knowlton’s pamphlet for wider distribution, this time placing Knowlton’s name on the title page. However, the laws of the time classified information about contraception as obscene, and Knowlton was tried and convicted. He had to spend three months in jail. But he never repudiated his pamphlet.

You can read more about Knowlton here. You can read a later edition of Fruits of Philosophy here.

[Researching Knowlton led me to an interesting website, The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Produced by Arizona State University, this website contains peer-reviewed articles on “the science of embryos, development, and reproduction.” Included are basic science articles, but also articles on bioethics, people (such as Charles Knowlton), and more.]

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