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Former department head William Bottiglia dies at 92

William Bottiglia
William Bottiglia

William Bottiglia, former head of the Department of Foreign Literatures and Linguistics and a distinguished scholar of French and Italian literature, died Aug. 19 at Avery Manor in Needham. He was 92.

Bottiglia, who joined the MIT faculty in 1956, specialized in Dante, the French Enlightenment and the philosophy of civilization. He was head of foreign literatures and linguistics from 1964 to 1973, when he transferred to the Sloan School of Management. At Sloan he was a professor of management and humanities until his retirement in 1991.

He was the author of "Voltaire's Candide: Analysis of a Classic," and an article called "Dante at MIT: A New Pedagogical Approach," published in the journal Italica. He also edited and contributed an article to a book of essays called "Voltaire: Twentieth Century Views." His last work was a four-volume philosophical novel titled "Heroic Symphony."

Before coming to MIT, Bottiglia taught at Princeton University and at Ripon College. He worked in industry from 1942 to 1947 and was general manager of J&S Tool Co. in East Orange, N.J., from 1946 to 1947.

Born in Bernardsville, N.J., he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa during his junior year at Princeton and graduated summa cum laude in 1934. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton in 1935 and 1948, respectively, and belonged to the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the Dante Society of America.

Bottiglia was appointed an Officier in the Société des Palmes Académiques by the French government and has been listed in Who's Who in America since 1966.

He was an avid reader and writer and enjoyed classical music, opera, ballet performances, museum exhibitions, playing the piano and taking long walks.

Bottiglia was the husband of the late Mildred (MacDonald) Bottiglia. He is survived by his daughter, Janet Bottiglia of Needham; a stepdaughter, Martha Morris of Ripon, Wis.; a sister, Adele Molinaro of Bernardsville, N.J.; three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 21, 2005 (download PDF).

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