Martha Nussbaum is a renowned legal academic known for her work on Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, feminist philosophy, political philosophy, and philosophy and the arts. She was trained as a classicist at Harvard University and is an expert on Aristotle. At the time of her Dunning Trust lecture, she was professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago. She has also taught at Brown, Harvard, and Oxford Universities. As of 2021, she is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics, appointed in the Department of Philosophy and the Law School at the University of Chicago, where she is also an Associate in the Classics Department, the Divinity School, the Political Science Department who sits also on the Committee of South Asian Studies. From 1986 to 1993, Nussbaum was a research advisor at the World Institute for Development Economics Research. She has received honorary degrees from more than 60 universities. She has edited 21 books and authored more than 450 articles. Nussbaum is the author of numerous books including The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy (1986), Women and Human Development (2000), and Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities (2010), and she is currently researching justice for non-human animals.

In her lecture, Nussbaum adopted the theme “women and human development,” and showcased the research that she had carried out with a group of international colleagues in India over the course of a decade. She brought into question the assumptions underlying such claims as the high quality of life in Canada vis-a-vis the developing world. In doing so, she brought together the fields of international development, economics, sociology, technology, anthropology, cultural studies, literature, women’s studies, and philosophy. According to Queen’s professor William Higginson, Nussbaum’s was the best Dunning Trust lecture of more than a dozen he had attended.