Of Moths and Men: Theo Lang and the Persistence of Richard Goldschmidt's Theory of Homosexuality, 1916-1960

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 22 (2):219 - 247 (2000)
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Using an analogy between moths and men, in 1916, Richard Goldschmidt proposed that homosexuality was a case of genetic intersexuality. As he strove to create a unified theory of sex determination that would encompass animals ranging from moths to men, Goldschmidt's doubts grew concerning the association of homosexuality with intersexuality until, in 1931, he dropped homosexuality from his theory of intersexuality. Despite Goldschmidt's explicit rejection of his theory of homosexuality, Theo Lang, a researcher in the Genealogical-Demographic Department of the Institute for Psychiatric Research in Munich, revived it, maintained Goldschmidt's association with it, and argued on its behalf in publications from 1936 to 1960. Lang's appropriation of Goldschmidt's theory did not depend on his resolution of the difficulties Goldschmidt had found with his own theory. Lang and Goldschmidt, I argue, had fundamentally different scientific and social commitments that allowed one to reject this theory of homosexuality and the other to accept it



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Michael Dietrich
Dartmouth College

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