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Obit: Dr. William H. Masters, 1915-2001

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Obit: Dr. William H. Masters, 1915-2001

Posted: 19 Apr 2006 4:17PM GMT
Classification: Obituary
Edited: 17 Jul 2006 1:21PM GMT
Surnames: Masters, Oliver, Baker,Paul, Johnson,Ellis,Taylor
Dr. William H. Masters, 1915-2001

A co-founder of American research into the understanding and treatment of human sexual dysfunction, Dr. William H. Masters created an uproar in the medical and private sector with his published research. The co-author of the best selling Masters & Johnson studies, Dr. Masters died from the complications of Parkinson's Disease in Tucson, Arizona on February 16th, 2001 at the age of 85.

William Howell Masters was born in Cleveland, Ohio December 27th, 1915 to Francis Wynne Masters and his wife, Estabrooks Taylor. The affluent Masters family enrolled him in the private Lawrenceville School of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, from which he graduated with honors. Masters was a 1938 graduate of Hamilton College of Clinton, New York, and claimed his medical degree from the University of Rochester Medical School. A student of gynecological and obstetrics specialization, Masters worked extensively with respected researcher, clinician and educator Dr. George Washington Corner, who was influential in Master's appointment to the St. Louis Maternity Hospital and Barnes Hospital, both of St. Louis, Missouri. Masters additionally trained in pathology at St. Louis's Washington University Medical School.

Masters was appointed to the teaching staff of Washington University Medical School in 1947, where his revolutionary work in hormone replacement therapy as a counter agent for various imbalances and effects of aging was conducted. Many of Dr. Masters's theories and practices in hormone replacement are still in application some 50 years after his research was made. The success of that work enabled Masters to embark upon the long and detailed process of researching human sexual behavior and dysfunction, which was funded initially by grants from the United States Institutes of Health. Conducted at his academic base, Washington University, Masters first work was to break beyond deeply entrenched theories accepted as fact from such authorities as renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

After two years work on the project, Masters opted to expand his perspective through the employment of a female research partner, selecting Virginia E. Johnson, a non-degreed former student of psychology. The Masters & Johnson Study, as it became known, used clinical and physical data gathering analysis as opposed to purely psychological data extrapolation and analysis. Through emerging medical technology, Masters employed use of such physiological data gathering tools as surgical cameras, electrocardiographs, electroencephalograms and serology to monitor 276 married couples acting as volunteers in his study. The first 10 years of the Masters & Johnson project culminated in the 1966 publication of his findings, the report Human Sexual Response. Written as an intended physician's and counselor's reference, the report used carefully chosen, clinical terminology, but when discovered by the general public, became a surprise best seller. Human Sexual Response, despite an anticipated array of attacks from morality groups as well as old school physicians and psychologists, was eventually translated into 10 languages for release as an academic as well as general release publication.

In 1971, following his divorce from Elizabeth Ellis Masters, William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson became marriage partners as well as research partners. Over the course of their partnership, their continued research and findings resulted in the release of a number of books, including Human Sexual Inadequacy, The Pleasure Bond, and in the late 1980s Crisis: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of Aids. The last title raised new controversy when it drew criticism from US Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop for what he deemed imprudent and inaccurate information about the AIDS Virus and its transmission. Masters stood behind his work, however, as a serviceable cautionary against sexual promiscuity.

When Dr. Masters saw the field of study he had fathered and its accompanying therapeutic theories experience runaway growth in the 1970s, he was instrumental in bringing about controls via the American Association of Sex Education and Counselors to establish guidelines for qualifications and conduct for therapists and educators. Dr. Masters additionally became a self-appointed watchdog against abuses by therapists of patients, and was among the first to encourage such transgressors be charged with rape as well as medical malpractice.

Dr. Masters divorced was divorced from Virginia Johnson in 1993, after her retirement, and in 1994 chose himself to retire, leaving his long time home base in St. Louis to reside in Tucson, Arizona. The advance of Parkinson's Disease forced Dr. Masters to a full care medical facility in recent years, where he died from complications of his illness on February 16th, 2001. Dr. William Howard Masters is survived by his third wife, Geraldine Baker Oliver Masters, a son, William H. Masters Jr., a daughter, Sara Masters Paul, a brother, Dr. Francis Wynne Masters III, and two grandchildren.

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