Thornton Wilder. Born in Madison, Wisconsin, and educated at Oberlin, Yale (B.A. 1920) and Princeton (M.A. 1925), Thornton Wilder was an accomplished novelist and playwright whose works, which explore the connection between the commonplace and the cosmic dimensions of human experience, continue to be read and produced around the world. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, one of seven novels, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1928, as did two of his four full-length plays, Our Town (1938) and The Skin of Our Teeth (1943). Mr. Wilder's The Matchmaker was later adapted as the musical Hello, Dolly! Wilder was a master of the one act play -- The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden and The Long Christmas Dinner were among his most celebrated titles -- and an outstanding practitioner of the mini or playlet form. Mr. Wilder also enjoyed enormous success with many other forms of the written and spoken word, among them teaching, acting, opera and film. His screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt (1943) remains a classic psycho-thriller to this day.
The genius of Thornton Wilder continues to resonate. In 1998 The Bridge of San Luis Rey was selected by the editorial board of the American Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century, and the closing lines of this work were quoted by British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the memorial service for victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001. In 2006, Our Town, performed at least once each day somewhere in this country, received its world premiere as an opera. Mr. Wilder's many honors include the Gold Medal for Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the National Book Committee's Medal for Literature. On April 17, 1997, the centenary of his birth, Mr. Wilder was honored by the United States Postal Service with a First-class stamp issued in Hamden, Connecticut, his home after 1930. He died there on December 7, 1975.