Dame Jean Iris Murdoch DBE (15 July 1919 – 8 February 1999) was an Irish-born English author and philosopher, best known for her stories regarding ethical and sexual themes. Her first published novel, Under the Net, was selected in 2001 by the editorial board of the American Modern Library as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 1987, she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Murdoch was born at 59 Blessington Street, Dublin, Ireland on 15 July, 1919. Her father, Wills John Hughes Murdoch, came from a mainly Presbyterian sheep farming family from Hillhall, County Down, and her mother, Irene Alice Richardson, who had trained as a singer until Iris was born, was from a middle class, Church of Ireland (Anglican) family from Dublin. When Iris was very young, her parents moved to London, where her father worked in the Civil Service. Murdoch was educated in progressive schools, first at the Froebel Demonstration School, and then as a boarder at the Badminton School in Bristol in 1932. She went on to read classics, ancient history, and philosophy at Somerville College, Oxford, and philosophy as a postgraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she attended a number of Ludwig Wittgenstein's lectures. In 1948, she became a fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford, having earlier (1938) joined the Communist Party of Great Britain.
She wrote her first novel, Under the Net in 1954, having previously published essays on philosophy, including the first study in English of Jean-Paul Sartre. It was at Oxford in 1956 that she met and married John Bayley, a professor of English literature and also a novelist. She went on to produce 25 more novels and other works of philosophy and drama until 1995, when she began to suffer the early effects of Alzheimer's disease, which she at first attributed to writer's block. She died, aged 79, in 1999 and her ashes were scattered in the garden at the Oxford Crematorium.