Wolfenden's Biologists

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Celebrating LGBT History Month, Ross Brooks will relate how certain Oxford biologists actively campaigned for reform of the law relating to homosexuality during the 1950s.

‘’The momentous 1957 Wolfenden Report recommended the partial decriminalisation of male homosexual acts, a recommendation which was eventually enacted in England and Wales by the Sexual Offences Act 1967.

Among those who petitioned the Wolfenden Committee to recommend changing the law were some of Britain’s leading biologists including C. D. Darlington, Ronald Fisher, E. B. “Henry” Ford, Julian Huxley, and Miriam Rothschild. Their testimonies made unprecedented genetic and evolutionary arguments for the naturalisation and legalisation of homosexual acts between consenting adults. Using previously unknown archival sources, Ross will piece together the behind-the-scenes story of these testimonies, looking beyond the scientific arguments to examine the broader personal and cultural issues at stake.’’

Speaker bio: Ross Brooks is a doctoral student in the School of History, Philosophy, and Culture at Oxford Brookes . His project is titled Evolution’s Closet: Queer Science in Britain, 1871-1967 and is funded by the Wellcome Trust. Ross recently acted as Contributing Editor for a queer-themed issue of Viewpoint, the magazine of the British Society for the History of Science. Since 2006 Ross has produced Queer Oxford, a public history project celebrating Oxford’s rich LGBTQ+ history. Last year he curated a new app-based queer city trail to accompany the No Offence: Exploring LGBTQ+ Histories exhibition at the Ashmolean. Follow Ross on Twitter @rossb_oxford.

Suitable for adults and yound people. Free.

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