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January 25, 2010

James Childress Appointed to Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has appointed James F. Childress, a distinguished professor from the University of Virginia, to the Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History at the John W. Kluge Center.

While at the Kluge Center, from January through mid-May, Childress will be finishing two books. One book on public bioethics will examine and seek to resolve a wide range of debates about public policies on bioethical issues, such as the allocation of resources in public-health crises. The other book will explore the possibilities and limitations of a reconstructed theory of just war.

Childress is the John Allen Hollingsworth Professor of Ethics at the University of Virginia, where he teaches in the Department of Religious Studies and directs the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life.

In 2004, Childress received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities. The award "recognizes outstanding contributions and significant publications that have helped shape the direction of the fields of bioethics and humanities." In 2002, he received the University of Virginia’s highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award, and in 1990, the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education named Childress as the Professor of the Year in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Childress has been actively involved in national committees examining ethics and public policy. From 1996 to 2001, Childress served on the presidentially-appointed National Bioethics Advisory Commission. From 1985 to 1986, he was vice chair of the national Task Force on Organ Transplantation, and through the years he has served on the board of directors of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the UNOS Ethics Committee, the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee of the National Institutes of Health and many more organizations.

Childress received a bachelor’s degree from Guilford College, a bachelor of divinity degree from Yale Divinity School and a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Yale University. From 1975 to 1979, Childress was the Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. Professor of Christian Ethics at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Chicago and at Columbia and Princeton universities.

Among his numerous publications are "Principles of Biomedical Ethics" (6th edition, 2009 with Tom L. Beauchamp); "Practical Reasoning in Bioethics" (1997); "Who Should Decide? Paternalism in Health Care" (1982); and "Moral Responsibility in Conflicts: Essays on Nonviolence, War, and Conscience" (1982).

Childress is the sixth appointment to the Maguire Chair at the Kluge Center. The first was John T. Noonan, a judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who was followed by Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago, Mark Noll of Wheaton College, Louis Galambos of Johns Hopkins University and William F. May of the University of Virginia.

The Cary and Ann Maguire Chair in Ethics and American History is funded by a generous endowment from James Madison Council member, Cary M. Maguire, to address serious and important ethical issues of our time. The Maguire chair is appointed by the Librarian of Congress to conduct research in residence at the Library on ethical issues associated with American history. Research may include the conduct of politics and government at all levels of American life as well as the role of religion, business, urban affairs, law, science and medicine. Maguire chair holders add new substance to the intellectual and ethical life of Washington and bring both philosophical depth and historical perspective to their research. A major public address is given by each chair holder during their tenure.

For further information on the Kluge Center, visit

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PR 10-017
ISSN 0731-3527

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