27 November 2013 7:00 AM, PST | The Guardian - TV News | See recent The Guardian - TV News news »

The TV adaptation is a hit, but who were the real Masters and Johnson? This biography uncovers the story of the couple whose unusual scientific researches – they studied 14,000 orgasms – kickstarted a sexual revolution

In a laboratory in St Louis, William Masters and Virginia Johnson rigged up test subjects to electrocardiogram and respiratory monitors and asked them to masturbate. The apparatus was a sort of orgasmic polygraph that meticulously documented, as Thomas Maier puts it, "each pulse, breath, thrust and quiver". The scientists also observed physiological changes in women through a motorised Plexiglas phallus, nicknamed Ulysses, inside which a camera was secreted. It was radical, controversial research for the mid-50s, undertaken with utmost discretion, though there never seemed to be a lack of willing subjects.

Masters and Johnson went on to watch volunteers having sex through a one-way mirror. Wired up like lab monkeys, the couples seldom knew each other »

- Christopher Turner

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