Margaret Dauler Wilson (1939-1998) was a member of the Philosophy Department at Princeton University 1970-1998.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Wilson received her A.B. from Vassar College in 1960 and her Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University in 1965. She was Woodrow Wilson Fellow at Harvard in 1960-61 and studied at Oxford University on a Harvard traveling fellowship in 1963-64. Wilson was an assistant professor of philosophy at Columbia University from 1965-67, then assistant professor at the Rockefeller Institute (now University) for three years.
In 1970 she joined the Princeton faculty as associate professor of philosophy, was promoted to professor in 1975, and was named Stuart Professor of Philosophy in 1998. Her teaching included undergraduate courses in Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz; Philosophy of Religion; and early modern philosophy; and graduate seminars in Descartes, Spinoza Locke, Berkeley and other early modern philosophers. She also served as director of graduate studies, vice chair and acting chair of the Department, as well as on a number of University committees. Over the almost 30 years of her tenure at Princeton, she was responsible for training a distinguished group of scholars in her specialty.
Wilson had focal interests in the history of early modern philosophy, but also worked in the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of mind, and the theory of perception. Author of Descartes (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1978), as well as of many articles on 17th and 18th-century metaphysics and epistemology, some of which are collected in her , Ideas and Mechanism (1999), Wilson was also editor of The Essential Descartes (1969) and coeditor (with D. Brock and R. Kuhns) of Philosophy: An Introduction (1972).
Wilson was signally honored by the profession. She held Guggenheim and ACLS fellowships (in 1977-78 and 1982-83, respectively), she was a Centennial Medalist of the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in 1989, and she was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1992. In 1994, she received Princeton University's Howard T. Behrman Award for distinguished achievement in the humanities.
Active in professional organizations, Wilson served as vice-president of the Eastern Division of the American Philosophical Association for 1993-94 and for 1994-95. She also served on a number of A.P.A. committees, including the Subcommittee on the Status of Women in the Profession. President of the Leibniz Society of North America from 1985-90, she was a member of numerous other associations, such as the Hobbes Society, the Hume Society, the North American Spinoza Society and the British Society for the History of Philosophy. Wilson served as a juror for the Arts and Humanities for the 1997 Heinz Foundation awards.
Wilson had significant commitments to a number of environmental, population and animal welfare issues. She served on the Franklin Township [N.J.] Planning Board from 1988 to 1992, and on the Environmental Commission from 1988 to 1995. She combined her love of conservation and wildlife preservation with travel to various parts of the world to visit environmentally sensitive areas. An avid mystery fan, Wilson also found time to read approximately 300 mystery and detective novels a year. In 2016, the Department of Philosophy at Princeton University began a series of occasional lectures in her name.