ST. LOUIS — Virginia Johnson, the Missouri farm girl who helped redefine the understanding of human sexuality as half of the husband-wife team whose taboo sex studies in the 1960s turned them into worldwide celebrities and bestselling authors, has died. She was 88.
The pioneering sex researcher died at an assisted living facility Wednesday after suffering complications from various illnesses, her son Scott Johnson said Thursday. The family was planning a private funeral.
Johnson was in her 30s, a twice-divorced mother of two children, when she went job-hunting at Washington University in St. Louis in the late 1950s, seeking work to support her young family while she pursued a college degree.
She was hired as a secretary at the university's medical school but soon became the assistant and lover of obstetrician-gynecologist William Masters, then co-collaborated on a large-scale human sexuality experiment — a subject all but taboo at the time.
The couple became known for a revolutionary sexual therapy that brought couples with sexual dysfunction, including celebrities, to St. Louis for their two-week program.
At the height of their careers, Masters and Johnson were huge celebrities, the topic of late-night talk show hosts and on the cover of news magazines.