Jane Reed/courtesy Harvard University

The author of “A Theory of Justice” and other works, Rawls has been called one of the most important political philosophers of the 20th century and the most influential proponent of liberalism since John Stuart Mill. In an essay written shortly after his death in 2002, former Princeton provost Amy Gutmann, a student of Rawls’ at Harvard, described how Rawls devoted much of his life to studying one urgent question: “What, he asked, does justice require of individuals and institutions, and how can we realize it?” His work was an influential force in discussions of civil rights, educational opportunity, and other social issues.