Onora O'Neill was born in Northern Ireland in 1941 and educated partly in Germany and at St. Paul's Girls School in London. She studied philosophy, psychology and physiology at Oxford, and went on to complete a doctorate at Harvard, with John Rawls as supervisor. During the 1970s she taught at Barnard College, the women's college at Columbia University, New York.
In 1977 she returned to the UK and took up a post at the University of Essex; she was Professor of Philosophy there when she became Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, in l992.
She has chaired the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission, and she is currently chair of the Nuffield Foundation. She has been President of the Aristotelian Society, and a member of the Animal Procedures (Scientific) Committee. In 1999 she was made a life peer as Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve, and sits as a crossbencher.
She has written widely on political philosophy and ethics, international justice, bioethics and the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Her books include:
Bounds of Justice (2000) Towards Justice and Virtue (1996) Constructions of Reason: Exploration of Kant's Practical Philosophy (1989) Faces of Hunger: An Essay on Poverty, Development and Justice (1986)