Peter Williams was born in 1943 and raised in the Los Angeles and, though he has been on the East Coast since 1965, still considers himself a Californian. He attended Occidental College with a double major in philosophy and political science. With an interest in jurisprudence—a mix of philosophy and sociology of law—he moved east to attend Harvard Law School and, subsequently, a graduate program in philosophy. At HLS in 1968, he spent his "extracurricular" time counseling students on their rights and options in the draft system and was "of counsel" on the winning school’s moot court competition team. Peter completed his PhD in philosophy in 1973 having written a dissertation on "The Norm of Reciprocity"— an analysis of the meaning of that concept in sociology, law, psychology, and philosophy. He also taught philosophy at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts.
In 1973, Peter began teaching at Stony Brook University. Within the department of philosophy, he has taught courses in ethics, philosophy of law, and the teaching practicum. Within the Division of Medicine in Society in the Department of Preventive Medicine in the School of Medicine, he has taught ethics and law to students and practitioners in the health care fields and, in the 1980s, organized and chaired the hospital ethics committee, a consultation service on which he still serves. He has also played an active role in curricular reform at the medical school, as Vice Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs.
Peter’s research focuses on social and ethical issues in medicine. An early entrant to the now well-established field of medical ethics, he helped form and has held offices in various professional organizations dedicated to the interface of humanities and health care. In the past decade Peter’s research attention has turned to matters educational, and he has written and spoken about the impact of medical education on character and creativity. Peter still occasionally turns his attention to contemporary issues in health care policy and ethics.