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A Note on the Life of James W. Edwards

James Edwards' life and his passions were as varied and numerous as the contents of his library. Edwards lived in New York City with his partner of eighteen years, Ron Nigro, with whom he shared a rich family life, a love of travel, music (especially opera), dance, gardening, and the delightful children's stories he wrote for his nephews and nieces.

He first specialized in the topic of sexuality in Asian cultures in a master's program at Stanford. After finishing the degree, Edwards took a job at a business firm whose interests were primarily in the Far East.

In 1979, he completed a master's program in international health and family planning at Tulane and later began the Ph.D. program at Columbia in medical anthropology. Through a consulting firm he established in New York City, Edwards functioned as foreign adviser in sexology to the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine and an international liaison to the Chinese Sexology Association. His publications appear in journals such as Medical Anthropology, The Journal of Sex Research, and Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry.

Throughout his life Edwards actively used his library, his talents as a collector, and his writings to increase knowledge of sexuality and health, particularly in places where access to such knowledge was scarce. Working with SIECUS (Sex Information Education Council of the U.S.), CSA (the Chinese Sexology Association) and SSSS (the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality), he donated many of his own books, and through one program at SIECUS, helped fund subscriptions to organizations in the developing world. With the help of the Ford Foundation, he worked to establish a sex research information center in Beijing.

As Nigro relates, "Books were for James the pathways to better understanding, wisdom, and knowledge. And it was his desire to share that with others with the hope of taking that understanding, wisdom, and knowledge to another level."

Quoting his favorite Chinese poet, Du Fu, Edwards maintained, "While the pleasures of life are fleeting and bitter sweet, books are treasures which endure. They contain knowledge which is not only of use to us today, but is the foundation of our future." Such was the case with respect to both Edwards' all-too-fleeting life and the enduring legacy he has left behind.

James Edwards Major Gift to Kinsey Library

Kinsey Today Fall/Winter 2000

« Return to James Edwards Collection

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