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Alfred C. Kinsey Entomological papers

Identifier: Mss .K56

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of Kinsey’s scientific work on gall wasps. It covers the whole range of research and scientific study from notes and observations made in the field in his notebooks and research notes to publications made by Kinsey on gall wasps. Subjects include taxonomic names such as Amphibolips and Xystoteras as well as broad categories like Research notes and Worksheets. Geographic notations of distribution and other subject matters consist of numbers or bar charts written in ink on 1/4-inch graph paper. Kinsey’s notebooks list basic information of different species of gall wasp on separate pages within the notebook. The vast majority of the correspondence consists only of correspondents whose surname begins with the letter B; including W.V. Balduf, Nathan Banks, William Beutenmüller and Thomaz Borgmeier. The lantern slide and glass plate negative collection consists of slides from Kinsey’s research trip to Mexico, teaching slides and scientific illustrations of gall wasps and galls.


  • circa 1917-1941
  • Majority of material found within 1917-1938

Access Conditions and Restrictions

Requests to use the collection should be made in advance to the Special Collections Librarian, who may be contacted at 212-769-5420 or at [email protected].

Biographical Note

Alfred C. Kinsey most famous for his work on human sexual behavior, was a world authority on gall wasps; winged but mainly flightless members of the genus Cynips. Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on June 23, 1894, Kinsey moved with his family to South Orange in 1904. He received his education at the Stevens Institute of Technology before moving onto Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine to study biology, graduating in 1916. From there, Kinsey attended the Bussey Institute at Harvard University, which is where in 1917, he began to study the gall wasp for his Ph.D. under the tutelage of William H. Wheeler. Receiving his doctorate in 1919 and enabled by a $1,500 Shelton fellowship Kinsey continued his research into the gall wasp, travelling for over 15 months, first to Texas and then on to cover 18,000 miles, 54 locations in 36 states before he was offered a position in the Department of Zoology at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana in August 1920, where he spent the remainder of his career. Kinsey’s emphasis was on individual variation and he became interested in the origin of the species. As gall wasps are flightless, Kinsey hoped to trace their origin across the continent and complete the taxonomy of the whole genus. To enable this research and believing that the phylogenetic line for the gall wasp converged in Southern Arizona where he would find a common ancestor, he undertook two research trips in the 1930s, Mexico in 1931 and Guatemala in 1936. He took four research students and a vehicle he had specially adapted as a makeshift laboratory. Whilst he did not find the origin of the species, these expeditions contributed to his 1936 publication The Origins of Higher Categories in Cynips. His last gall hunting expedition was in 1941. During the 1930s, Kinsey published the majority of his research on gall wasps and by the end of his career had accumulated over seven million gall wasps and a million specimens of gall. In 1938, Kinsey’s research focus changed to human behavior after the University of Bloomington asked Kinsey to coordinate a marriage course. The Institute for Sex Research was incorporated at the University of Bloomington in 1947 with Kinsey listed as its Director. He went on to publish two books on human sexual behavior based on his research, Sexual Behavior of the Human Male in 1948 and Sexual Behavior of the Human Female in 1954. Kinsey married Clara McMillen in 1921 and they had four children together, one of whom died in infancy. He died in 1956.


4 Linear Feet (8 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Kinsey collection processed by the Library in 2004 (acquired in 1995) has been merged with the 2014 accrual. The earlier collection had been arranged alphabetically and has been rearranged accordingly into series with the most recent accrual.

Custodial History

Collection transferred to Library in 1995 from AMNH Dept. of Entomology with a further transfer of material in 2014.

Source of Acquistion

The AMNH acquired the collection in 1957.


Overall in a good condition, however some of the paper is very brittle and some notebooks are detached from their covers.

Separated Materials

The lantern slides and glass plate negatives have been separated from the main collection and are located with the photographic collection.

Physical Description

The collection consists largely of handwritten and typewritten manuscripts, notebooks, printed publications and lantern slides.

Alfred C. Kinsey Entomological papers, circa 1917-1941 (bulk 1917-1938)
Caroline Catchpole
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation provided support to make this finding aid available in ArchivesSpace (2016-2017). This collection was made available as part of a project funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources, 2011-2012.
Edition statement
Information for this finding aid expanaded on the original catalog record written by Ann Herendeen, 2004.

Repository Details

Part of the Museum Archives at the Gottesman Research Library Repository

American Museum of Natural History
200 Central Park West
New York NY 10024 USA
(212) 769-5420