Gershon Legman (1917-1999) was an American cultural critic and folklorist, best known for his books The Rationale of the Dirty Joke (1968) and The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore and Bibliography (1964).
Born in 1917 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Legman was the son of Emil and Julia Friedman Legman, both of Hungarian-Jewish descent. He was educated at Scranton's Central High School, where journalist Jane Jacobs and screenwriter and film director Cy Endfield were classmates. He enrolled in the University of Michigan for one semester in the fall of 1935, but left without sitting for his exams. He then settled in New York City where for a number of years he was a part-time freelance assistant to the physician and sexological researcher Robert Latou Dickinson at the New York Academy of Medicine while simultaneously working in the bookshop of Jacob Brussel, where a brisk business was done in publishing and selling contraband erotica. He also spent long hours at the New York Public Library acquiring an autodidactic education. In the late 1940s he became the editor of the little magazine Neurotica.
Throughout his career Legman was an independent scholar without institutional affiliation, except for one year during 1964-1965 when he was a writer in residence at the University of California, San Diego, in the first year of the new campus' undergraduate programs. He pioneered the serious academic study of erotic and taboo materials in folklore.