More About the Author
"Orientation" is a theme which Dr. Vail has spent most of her life exploring, on both the practical and the theoretical level. Her lifelong fascination with maps, compasses, hiking, and tracking has carried over into the professional fields of mathematics, computer technology, music, and philosophy. Born into a German-speaking community in Idaho, she majored in physics and mathematics in college, spent a year in Germany on a Fulbright scholarship, earned a master's degree at Rutgers in electrical engineering, and received her Ph.D. in philosophy at Yale in 1964, writing her dissertation, subsequently published by Pennsylvania State University Press, on "Heidegger and the Ontological Difference." She professored in philosophy for a few years, then branched out into hands-on work for a major aerospace company, where she developed navigation guidance and control systems, direction-finding antenna systems, railway signaling systems, and airplane cockpit display systems. She also wrote airplane landing-gear software for the same aerospace company. But she could not be cut off from the outdoors for long, which led her into the field of dog training and animal intelligence, applied specifically to retrieving and search-and-rescue techniques, a field in which she remains active today (her prize canines are named Gangster, Madonna, and Blake). When coming back indoors, she is most likely to pick up a book of Hölderlin's poetry, or recently-published early lectures given by Heidegger on the pre-Socratic philosophers -- or discuss by email the music of Wagner and contemporary composers such as Jennifer Higdon and Joseph Schwantner with her intellectual sojourner from Yale days and co-author Theodore Voelkel. Her ambition is to write a book on Heidegger's treatment of the absence of the gods, and possibly a book of meditations about taking the road less traveled, which, she avers, "leads one into the meadow where the flower blooms because it blooms, and for no reason outside itself." She lives in Three Rivers, Michigan.