Professors: A Yankee Socrates

The titles of his fat, cloth-covered tomes would hardly thrill a random bookstore browser. But in a lawyer's den or a judge's chambers, the four volumes of Williston on Sales or the nine volumes of Williston on Contracts never gather dust. "The business life of this nation is based on the writings and the legislation that Samuel Williston drafted," says Harvard Law Professor Arthur E. Sutherland.

Born shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run, Samuel Williston was the grandson of the founder of Massachusetts' 122-year-old Williston Academy. Admitted to Harvard, he garnered some repute by winning his H as...

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