Bryan Ronald Wilson is the Reader Emeritus in Sociology in the University of Oxford. From 1963 to 1993, he was also a Fellow of All Souls College, and in 1993 was elected an Emeritus Fellow.
For more than forty years, he has conducted research into minority religious movements in Britain and overseas (in the United States, Ghana, Kenya, Belgium and Japan, among other places). His work has involved reading the publications of these movements and, wherever possible, associating with their members in their meetings, services, and homes. It has also entailed sustained attention to, and critical appraisal of, the works of other scholars.
He holds the Degrees of B.Sc. (Econ) and Ph.D. of the University of London and the M.A. of the University of Oxford. In 1984, the University of Oxford recognized the value of his published work by conferring upon him the degree of D.Litt. In 1992, the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium awarded him the degree of Doctor Honoris Causa. In 1994, he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.
At various times he has held the following additional appointments:
Commonwealth Fund Fellow (Harkness Foundation) at the University of California, Berkeley, United States, 1957–8;
Visiting Professor, University of Ghana, 1964;
Fellow of the American Counsel of Learned Societies, at the University of California, Berkeley, United States, 1966–7;
Research Consultant for the Sociology of Religion to the University of Padua, Italy, 1968–72;
Visiting Fellow of The Japan Society, 1975;
Visiting Professor, The Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, 1976; 1982; 1986; 1993;
Snider Visiting Professor, University of Toronto, Canada, 1978;
Visiting Professor in the Sociology of Religion, and Consultant for Religious Studies to the Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand, 1980–1;
Scott Visiting Fellow, Ormond College, University of Melbourne, Australia, 1981;
Visiting Professor, University of Queensland, Australia, 1986;
Distinguished Visiting Professor, University of California, Santa Barbara, California, United States, 1987;
For the years 1971–5, he was President of the Conférence Internationale de Sociologie Religieuse (the world-wide organization for the discipline); in 1991 he was elected Honorary President of this organization now re-named as Société Internationale de Sociologie des Religions.
Council Member of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (United States) 1977–9;
For several years, European Associate Editor, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion;
For six years, Joint Editor of The Annual Review of the Social Sciences of Religion.
He has lectured on minority religious movements extensively in Britain, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Japan, and the United States, and occasionally in Germany, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.
He has been called as an expert witness on sects in courts in Britain, the Netherlands, New Zealand and South Africa and has provided evidence on affidavit for courts in Australia and in France. He has also been called upon to give expert written evidence on religious movements for the Parliamentary Home Affairs Committee of the House of Commons.
Among other works, he has published nine books devoted in whole or in part to minority religious movements:
Sects and Society: the Sociology of Three Religious Groups in Britain, London: Heinemann and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961; reprinted, Westport, Conn., United States; Greenwood Press, 1978;
Patterns of Sectarianism (edited) London: Heinemann, 1967;
Religious Sects, London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson; New York: McGraw Hill, 1970 (also published in translation in French, German, Spanish, Swedish and Japanese);
Magic and the Millennium, London: Heinemann, and New York: Harper and Row, 1973;
Contemporary Transformations of Religion, London: Oxford University Press, 1976 (also published in translation in Italian and Japanese);
The Social Impact of the New Religious Movements (edited) New York: Rose of Sharon Press, 1981;
Religion in Sociological Perspective, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982 (also published in translation in Italian; Japanese translation in preparation);
The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990;
A Time to Chant: the Soka Gakkai Buddhists in Britain, [with K. Dobbelaere] Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994 (Japanese translation in preparation).
He has also contributed more than twenty-five articles on minority religious movements to edited works and learned journals in Britain, the United States, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Japan. He has contributed articles to the Encyclopaedia Britannica; the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences; the Encyclopedia of Religion, and is currently preparing a commissioned contribution to the Enciclopedia Italiana.