John A. Williams

John Alden Williams was a scholar and professor of Islamic civilization and religion. He completed his doctorate in Middle East Civilization at Princeton University and his academic career began as assistant director of the American Research Center in Egypt, a post he held from 1957-1959. In Cairo, he studied the history of Islamic architecture with Professor Sir K. A. C. Creswell, who compiled the foundational survey, Early Muslim Architecture. From 1959-1966, Williams was a professor at McGill University in Montreal. After 1966, he returned to Cairo as director of the Center for Arabic Studies at AUC, followed by a professorship at the same institution. John Williams met his wife Caroline at this time in Cairo, where she had moved to complete a second masters degree in Islamic art and architecture. The two married in 1967. From 1972-1984, Williams held a joint post at AUC and the University of Texas. He and Caroline split time between the two cities and both taught courses on Islamic civilization. In 1988, Williams became William R. Kenen Professor of Humanities at William and Mary College, a post from which he would retire.

John and Caroline Williams took thousands of photographs in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East as part of their research on art and architecture. Some of these have been published as part of their research, and a sample of the collection formed one of the earliest groups of images available on the Archnet Digital Library. Caroline Williams donated the majority of their collection of 35 mm slides to the Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT in 2017, where they are housed in the original slide cabinets and available for research and reference.

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John A. Williams
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