Brief Bio

Dennis F. Thompson is Professor of Government and the Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (emeritus). He is also a Professor of Public Policy (emeritus) in the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the founding Director of the University Center for Ethics and the Professions (now the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics). He has served as Associate Provost, Interim and Acting Provost, and Senior Adviser to the President of the University.

Thompson's most recent books are: The Spirit of Compromise: Why Governing Demands It and Campaigning Undermines It (with Amy Gutmann); Restoring Responsibility: Ethics in Government, Business, and Healthcare, Just Elections: Creating a Fair Electoral Process in the United States, and Why Deliberative Democracy? (with Amy Gutmann). His other books include: Democracy and Disagreement (with Amy Gutmann), The Democratic Citizen: Social Science and Democratic Theory in the 20th Century, John Stuart Mill and Representative Government, Ethics in Congress: From Individual to Institutional Corruption, and Political Ethics and Public Office, which won the American Political Science Association's Gladys M. Kammerer award for the best political science publication in the field of U.S. national policy in the year of its publication. Among the journals in which his articles have appeared are: the American Political Science Review, Philosophy & Public Affairs, Political Theory, and Ethics

Thompson has served as vice president of the American Political Science Association,a member of the National Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Conflict of Interest, and a founding member of the executive committee of the Association of Practical and Professional Ethics, from which he received a lifetime achievement award. Other recent professional activities include advisory boards of University Center for Human Values at Princeton University, the Spencer Foundation, the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy at College of William and Mary, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Hastings Center-Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences.  His editorial service includes the boards of the American Political Science Review, Philosophy & Public Affairs, and Political Theory.

Thompson has been a consultant to the Joint Ethics Committee of the South African Parliament, the American Medical Association, the U. S. Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House Office of General Counsel, and the Senate Ethics Committee in the investigation of the so-called “Keating Five.” He also served for ten years as a member of Board of Trustees of Smith College, the last five as vice-chair.

A summa graduate of the College of William and Mary in 1962, Thompson took a first-class honors degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Balliol College, Oxford University. He earned a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard in 1968. He taught at Princeton for 18 years before returning to Harvard in 1986.