John T. Wilson, 76, a former deputy director of the National Science Foundation and former president of the University of Chicago, died of cardiac arrest on Aug. 4 at a hospital in Chicago. He lived in Chicago.

Dr. Wilson, who was born in Pennsylvania, served in the Navy during World War II. He was a 1941 graduate of George Washington University and received a master's degree from the University of Iowa and a doctorate in psychology from Stanford University in 1948.

He settled in Washington in 1948 as executive secretary of the American Psychological Association and assistant psychology professor at George Washington University.

He was chief of the personnel and training research branch of the Office of Naval Research from 1950 to 1952, and then joined the National Science Foundation. He was its assistant director for biological and medical sciences before leaving in 1961.

After two years in Chicago as an aide to president George Beadle, Dr. Wilson returned here to the NSF as its deputy director in 1963. He received the foundation's first Distinguished Service Award before returning to the University of Chicago in 1968 as vice president and dean of faculties.

He was named provost in 1969, with responsibility for faculty appointments, academic budgets and education programs. He became acting president and then university president in 1975. He retired three years later, but continued to teach education courses at the university until retiring again in 1984.

Dr. Wilson had served on the board of regents of the National Library of Medicine and on the policy and planning board of the American Psychological Association. He was the author of two books and technical articles dealing with psychology, human learning, personnel selection and training and research programming and administration.

Survivors include his wife, Ann, of Chicago; his stepmother; a sister; two brothers; two half-brothers; and a half-sister.