Alex Comfort

Alex Comfort

Alexander Comfort, MB BChir, PhD, DSc (10 February 1920 – 26 March 2000) was a medical professional, gerontologist, anarchist, pacifist, conscientious objector and writer, best known for The Joy of Sex, which played a part in what is often called the sexual revolution. He was also the author of many other books on a variety of topics.



Comfort was educated at Highgate School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied medicine at the University of Cambridge (pre-clinical study leading to a BA, upgraded in 1944 to an MA) and the London Hospital (now known as the Royal London Hospital), qualifying in 1944 with both the Conjoint diplomas of LRCP London, MRCS England and the Cambridge MB BChir degrees.

Life and work

As a youth, Comfort lost four fingers on his left hand in an explosives accident.[1]

Comfort served as a House Physician at the London Hospital and went on to become a lecturer in physiology at the London Hospital Medical College. In 1945 he obtained the Conjoint Board's Diploma in Child Health, and progressed to a PhD in 1950 and a DSc of University College, London in 1963.[2]

A leading pacifist, Comfort considered himself "an aggressive anti-militarist", and he believed that pacifism rested "solely upon the historical theory of anarchism".[3][4] He was an active member of the Peace Pledge Union [PPU] and Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and a conscientious objector in World War II.

Among the works on anarchism by Comfort is Peace and Disobedience (1946), one of many pamphlets he wrote for Peace News and PPU, and Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State (1950).[3] He exchanged public correspondence with George Orwell defending pacifism in the open letter/poem "Letter to an American Visitor" under the pseudonym "Obadiah Hornbrooke."[5]

He had a successful academic career in both England and the United States of America, in parallel with his social and political activism, and was a prolific writer.

Comfort's 1972 book The Joy of Sex earned him worldwide fame and $3 million. But he was unhappy to become known as "Dr. Sex" and to have his other work given so little relative attention.[6]

Comfort devoted much of the 1950s and 1960s studying the biology of aging (biogerontology) as well as popularizing the subject. He could be called an early biomedical gerontologist (life extensionist) on the basis of his view that science could extend human lifespan. In 1969 he suggested that life expectancy (not simply maximum life span) could be extended to 120 within 20 years.[3] Although Comfort believed that aging could be postponed, he did not believe that it could be eliminated, and he did not write about rejuvenation.[7]

In old age he returned to England, and in his last years was disabled after a stroke. He died aged 80 on 26 March 2000 in South Northamptonshire.[8]

Partial bibliography

  • No Such Liberty (1941) – novel
  • Three New Poets (1942) – Alex Comfort, Roy McFadden, Ian Serraillier
  • A Wreath for the Living (1942)
  • Elegies (1944)
  • The Power House (1944) – novel
  • The Song of Lazarus (1945)
  • Outlaw of the Lowest Planet by Kenneth Patchen (1946) – Preface by Alex Comfort
  • Art and Social Responsibility (1946)
  • The Signal to Engage (1946)
  • Peace and Disobedience (1946) – pamphlet (reprinted in 1994 in Against Power and Death)[3]
  • Barbarism and Sexual Freedom (1948) – non-fiction
  • On This Side Nothing (1949) – novel,influenced by Albert Camus, whose work Comfort admired
  • Authority and Delinquency in the Modern State (1950)
  • Sexual Behaviour in Society (1950) – non-fiction
  • And All But He Departed (1951)
  • A Giant's Strength (1952) – novel
  • The Biology of Senescence (1956) – non-fiction
  • Come out to Play (1961) – novel
  • Haste to the Wedding (1962)
  • Darwin and the Naked Lady (1962) – articles
  • Sex in Society (1963) – non-fiction
  • Ageing – the Biology of Senescence (1964)
  • Koka Shastra (1964)
  • Process of Ageing (1965)
  • The Nature of Human Nature – non-fiction (U. S. edition Harper & Row 1966)
  • The Joy of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking (1972)
  • More Joy of Sex: A Lovemaking Companion to The Joy of Sex (1973)
  • Come out to Play (1975)
  • Poems for Jane (1979)
  • The Facts of Love: Living, Loving and Growing Up Crown Publishers (1980)
  • I and That: Notes on the Biology of Religion (1980)
  • Tetrarch (1981)-a fantasy novel inspired by William Blake
  • Reality And Empathy: Physics, Mind, and Science in the 21st Century (1984)
  • Imperial Patient (1987) – a historical novel about Nero.
  • The Philosophers (1989) – satire of Thatcher's Government set in the future.[9]
  • The New Joy of Sex: A Gourmet Guide to Lovemaking for the Nineties (1992)
  • Writings Against Power and Death (1994)


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Medical Directory 1969 (125 ed.). London: J & A Churchill. 1969. p. 356. ISBN 7000-1400-4 
  3. ^ a b c d Rayner, Claire (28 March 2000). "News: Obituaries: Alex Comfort". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  4. ^ For discussions of Comfort's political views, see Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (1992) by Peter Marshall, and Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow (2006) by David Goodway.
  5. ^ Complete Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell volume II, pg. 294-303
  6. ^ Martin, Douglas (20 March 2000). "Alex Comfort, 80, Dies; a Multifaceted Man Best Known for Writing 'The Joy of Sex'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  7. ^ "Gerontology A Good Age by Alex Comfort". 1975 - 1981. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  8. ^ Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, by John Clute and Peter Nicholls, (1993). pg. 287.

External links

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