Ronald Dworkin was born in 1931 in Providence, Rhode Island, United States, the son of Madeline (Talamo) and David Dworkin. He studied at Harvard University and at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and a student of Sir Rupert Cross. After he completed his final year’s exams at Oxford, the examiners were so impressed with his script that the Chair of Jurisprudence (then H. L. A. Hart) was summoned to read it. Dworkin then attended Harvard Law School and subsequently clerked for Judge Learned Hand of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Judge Hand would later call Dworkin the finest clerk he ever employed—specifically, “the law clerk to beat all law clerks”—and Dworkin would recall Judge Hand as an enormously influential mentor. After clerking for Judge Learned Hand, Dworkin was offered the opportunity to clerk for Justice Felix Frankfurter. Instead, he turned down the offer and joined Sullivan & Cromwell, a prominent law firm in New York City. After working at the firm, Dworkin became a Professor of Law at Yale Law School, where he became the holder of the Wesley N. Hohfeld Chair of Jurisprudence. In 1969, Dworkin was appointed to the Chair of Jurisprudence at Oxford, a position in which he succeeded H. L. A. Hart and was elected Fellow of University College, Oxford. After retiring from Oxford, Dworkin became the Quain Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London, where he subsequently became the Bentham Professor of Jurisprudence. He was Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law at New York University School of Law and professor of Philosophy at New York University (NYU). where he taught since the late 1970s. He co-taught a colloquium in legal, political, and social philosophy with Thomas Nagel. Dworkin had regularly contributed, for several decades, to The New York Review of Books. He delivered the Oliver Wendell Holmes Lecture at Harvard, the Storrs Lectures at Yale, the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Stanford, and the Scribner Lectures at Princeton. In June 2011, he joined the professoriate of New College of the Humanities, a private college in London.
While working for Judge Learned Hand, Dworkin met his future wife, Betsy Ross, with whom he would have twins Anthony and Jennifer. Betsy was the daughter of a successful New York businessman. They were married from 1958 until Betsy died of cancer in 2000. Dworkin later married Irene Brendel, the former wife of pianist Alfred Brendel. Dworkin died of leukemia in London on February 14, 2013 at the age of 81. He was survived by his second wife, two children, and two grandchildren.
- December, 11, 1931
- Providence, Rhode Island
- February, 14, 2013
- London, England