Professor Richard Nelson Frye was Professor of Iranian Studies Emeritus at Harvard. He established the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern studies and taught at Harvard from 1948 to 1990, though his impact lingered even after his formal retirement ended. Many appropriately referred to him as “the Dean of the World’s Iranists”.
Professor Frye was the author of more than twenty books and over 150 articles about the ancient Iranian culture. His work covered the spectrum of Iranian studies and the history of Iran and related cultures across the centuries, with the relevant sources and documents in multiple living and extinct languages ranging from Avestan and Old Persian to Sogdian, to present modern Iranian languages. Early in his career, the editor and compiler of the monumental, encyclopedic Persian dictionary, Dehkhoda, gave him the honorific Irandoost, or Iranophile, which has since adorned the doorway to his office at Harvard.
He received his PhD in history and philology from Harvard in 1946, with his thesis on Narshakhi’s History of Bokhara. He joined the Harvard faculty in 1948 and later became Agha Khan Professor of Iranian Studies. Later, he founded the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES) at Harvard. His books and articles on Iranian history and culture have endured as references on the subject. Some notable titles include Iran (1953), Persia (1968), The Heritage of Persia (1963), The Golden Age of Persia (1975), History of Ancient Iran (1984), The Heritage of Central Asia (1996), Greater Iran (memoirs, 2005), and History of Bukhara (2007).
He passed away at the age of 94 on March 27th, 2014.