University Of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2, Regno Unito
Michael George Schofield (24 June 1919 – 27 March 2014) was a pioneer of social research into homosexuality in the 1950s and 1960s, and a campaigner for the Homosexual Law Reform Society at a time before the Sexual Offences Act 1967 partially decriminalised homosexual activity in the UK. He played a prominent role in the law reform lobbies of the 1960s and 1970s. He is the author of many books including Sociological Aspects of Homosexuality (1965) and The Sexual Behaviour of Young People (1965).
Michael Schofield was born in Leeds in 1919, the fourth child of Snowden Schofield, who was the owner of Schofield's, the largest department store in Leeds for many decades. He obtained a degree in Psychology at Cambridge University, then spent the war years as a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force. Schofield flew with a night fighter squadron and openly conducted a homosexual relationship with another pilot. He was the first to be informed when his lover was killed. After the war, he studied at Harvard Business School. During this time, he identified as homosexual and decided to make an original study of the social aspects of homosexuality.
At a time when homosexual activity was a criminal offence, publishing under his own name was too risky and he assumed the pen name of Gordon Westwood. This first book, Society and the Homosexual, was published in 1952 and was the first non-medical book to be written about homosexuality, and contemporary with earliest just before trials of several prominent people during the 1950s. Later, in 1960 he published A Minority, the first detailed research into the lives of homosexuals who had not got into trouble with the law and who had not sought medical treatment. His third and major study was finally published under his own name in 1965 as Sociological Aspects of Homosexuality. In England little of sociological significance had appeared before this; and his work was regularly cited in the debate over law changes. At this time he also became active in the Homosexual Law Reform Society, working with Antony Grey and others.
After these publications he turned his attention to other social issues including single parent families, teenage premarital sex, birth control, abortion, drug taking and prison reform. In 1965 his best known book, The Sexual Behaviour of Young People, was published. This caused a stir, but was also taught in higher education institutions as much for its methodology as its findings. His later books included Social Research (a textbook), The Strange Case of Pot, The Sexual Behaviour of Young Adults, Report of the Committee on the Operation of the Sexual Containment Act. He also wrote many research papers, articles in periodicals and introductions to other books. Schofield spent many years actively supporting various law reform groups. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) for nine years.
He was active in the campaign against censorship and appeared as an expert witness for the defence of several trials in which publications were tried for their alleged obscenity. He also served on the Government Advisory Committee on Drug Dependence (chaired by Barbara Wootton) that published the Wootton Report (the report on cannabis which suggested that the legal penalties were far too severe). He wrote a minority note for it. On a wider scale, he campaigned to make contraceptives free on the National Health Service and for the Abortion Law Reform Association. He was an early supporter of frank sex education, gay rights and a more tolerant attitude to marital infidelity. He was to be found opposing Mary Whitehouse and her supporters on TV and radio on many occasions, but he made few enemies and many friends. Schofield was the founder and main instigator of a charitable foundation named the Lyndhurst Settlement, to which he donated a large part of his inheritance. Between 1968 and 2005, it donated at least three million pounds to small struggling charities, particularly those groups working for civil liberties and for the protection of the environment.
Schofield retired in 1985 from public life and lived with his partner (whom he met in 1952), Anthony Skyrme, until his death in 2014.
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