Charles Knowlton (1800–1850)
Charles Knowlton was a physician and author who advocated for increased access to information about reproduction in the nineteenth century in the US. Throughout his early medical education, Knowlton was particularly interested in anatomy and on several instances robbed graves for bodies to dissect. In 1832, Knowlton authored The Fruits of Philosophy, a pamphlet that contained detailed descriptions of the reproductive organs and information on conception and methods to control reproduction. Knowlton circulated his work among his patients until it was republished in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1832. For publishing a book on sex and methods of birth control, Knowlton was convicted of breaking obscenity laws, which prevented the transmission of obscene materials. After his death, social activists Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant republished his work in London, England. Knowlton’s writing about sex and birth control allowed individuals to understand and take control of their reproduction and initiated a public discussion about obscenity laws.