Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Havelock Ellis

Havelock Ellis was one of the most important early twentieth-century scientists writing about sexuality. Born in Croydon, south of London, he was the son of a sea captain. After spending a few years in Australia teaching school, he returned to England in 1879 and entered medical school with the intention of studying human sexuality. With John Addington Symonds, a pioneering writer on male-male love, he co-wrote the book Sexual Inversion (1897), which is considered the first major English language scientific study of homosexuality. Through the use of case studies, Ellis tried to humanize men who love and have sex with men, or “homosexuals,” as they were just coming to be called. Ellis wrote extensively over the next several decades, producing among other works a multi-volume series, Studies in the Psychology of Sex. His reach extended widely, including influencing literary artists such as Radclyffe Hall, the author of the classic lesbian novel, The Well of Loneliness. Ellis also wrote on what is today described as transgender identity, distinguishing it from homosexuality. As with his writing on same-sex love, he refused to condemn or pathologize it. Ellis married Edith Lees in 1891. Theirs was an unconventional marriage, since Lees openly identified as lesbian and lectured widely on sexuality and woman’s rights. Ellis’s autobiography, My Life, in which he discusses his marriage and his own sexuality at length, was published in 1939, the year that he died.