Born in Helsinki, he was a lecturer in sociology at the University of Helsinki (1890–1906). He studied English in order to read books by Darwin and other British writers in their native language. In 1887, he visited England after which he wrote his dissertation — The Origins of Human Marriage — which opened a door for him into academic circles. He became close friends with Edmund Gosse and James Sully, who played important roles throughout Westermarck’s life.
He later held professorships in philosophy and moral philosophy between 1906 and 1930, and during the same period was was professor of sociology at the London School of Economics.
In his major philosophical work Christianity and Morals (1939), Westermarck expressed his views on religion and particularly Christianity, arguing that homosexuality was a part of normal sexual behaviour.
Westermarck's homosexuality was an open secret amongst his colleagues.
Partly based on an article in the New World Encyclopedia.
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