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MacDonald, William L., Jr.

    Full Name: MacDonald, William L., Jr.

    Other Names:

    • William L. MacDonald Jr.

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 12 July 1921

    Date Died: 06 March 2010

    Place Born: Putnam, Windham, CT, USA

    Place Died: Washington, DC, USA

    Home Country/ies: United States

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), Classical, Roman (ancient Italian culture or period), and sculpture (visual works)

    Career(s): educators


    Architectural historian of classical Rome, professor of art, Smith College, 1965-. MacDonald’s father was William Lloyd MacDonald, Sr., and his mother Susan E. Elrod (MacDonald). He served in World War II in the U.S. Army Air Forces, 1942-1945, rising to first lieutenant. Afterward, MacDonald entered Harvard University, receiving his A.B. in 1949. He began lecturing at:Boston Architectural Center in the history of architecture in 1950, continuing for his Harvard. During that time he participated in the excavation of the mosaics at Hagia Sophia, organized by the Byzantine Institute, beginning in 1951, immediately after the death of its instigator, Thomas Whittemore. His master’s degree was awarded from Harvard in 1953. The same year he married Dale Ely. MacDonald taught at Wheaton College, Norton, MA, as an instructor of classics in 1953 while pursuing his Ph.D. After an American Academy in Rome fellowship, 1954-1956, he graduated in 1956, writing his dissertation on the Hippodrome structure in Byzantium. The same year he joined Yale University as an instructor, promoted to assistant professor in 1959. He published Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture in 1962 and the following year was made associate professor of history of art at Yale. His second book, The Architecture of the Roman Empire appeared in 1965. In what has been described as a “generational transition/bloodbath” in the department (Sears), MacDonald left along with several other younger scholars, including Spiro Konstantin Kostof. He joined Smith College, Northampton, MA, as professor of art in 1965 where he remained the rest of his career. Macdonald was appointed A. P. Brown Professor in 1974. He wrote several moving biographical entries on Whittemore, an important man-of-action for Byzantine art who had heretofore not been documented, beginning with a piece for the American Biographical Dictionary in 1974. He also authored the book, Northampton Massachusetts Architecture and Buildings, 1975. His Architecture of the Roman Empire was reissued as a 3-volume paperback set in the 1980s, part of the Yale Publications in the History of Art. It became the standard text for undergraduate courses for most of the second half of the twentieth century. United States

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] The Hippodrome at Constantinople. Harvard University, 1956; “The Uncovering of Byzantine Mosaics in Hagia Sophia,” Archaeology Summer 1951; Early Christian & Byzantine Architecture. New York: G. Braziller, 1962; and Stillwell, Richard. The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976; The Architecture of the Roman Empire. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965; Northampton, Massachusetts: Architecture & Buildings. Northampton, MA: Northampton Bicentennial Committee, 1975; The Pantheon: Design, Meaning, and Progeny. London: A. Lane, 1976; Piranesi’s Carceri: Sources of Invention. Northampton, MA: Smith College, 1979; Columns in the Collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. New York: The Museum, 1982; and Pinto, John A. Hadrian’s Villa and its Legacy New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.


    Who’s Who in Writers, Editors & Poets. United States & Canada. 4th ed., 1992-1993. Highland Park, IL: December Press, 1992; Sears, Elizabeth. “The Art-Historical Work of Walter Cahn.” in Hourihane, Colum, ed. Romanesque Art and Thought in the Twelfth Century: Essays in Honor of Walter Cahn. University Park, Pa: Penn State Press, 2008, p. 21, note 42.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "MacDonald, William L., Jr.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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