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Richard Nelson Frye: Wikis


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Frye giving a lecture in Tehran in 2004, after receiving a lifetime achievement award from the Mahmoud Afshar Foundation.

Richard Nelson Frye (born January 10, 1920) is an American scholar of Iranian and Central Asian Studies, and Aga Khan Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Harvard University. His professional areas of interest are Iranian philology, and the history of Iran and Central Asia before 1000 CE.

Born in Birmingham, Alabama to a family of immigrants from Sweden, "Freij" has four children, his second marriage being to an Iranian-Assyrian scholar, Dr. Eden Naby, from Urmia, Iran who teaches at Columbia University. He speaks fluent Russian, German, Arabic, Persian, French, Pashto, Uzbek, and Turkish,[1] and has extensive knowledge of Avestan, Pahlavi, Sogdian, and other Iranian languages and dialects, both extinct and current.



A young Frye and Roman Ghirshman, Susa, 1966.

Frye first attended the University of Illinois, where he received an BA in history and philosophy in 1939. He received his MA from Harvard University in 1940 and his PhD from Harvard in 1946, in Asiatic history.

Frye served with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. He was stationed in Afghanistan and traveled extensively in the Middle East, Central Asia, and South Asia.

He returned to Harvard to teach. He was a member of the Harvard faculty from 1948 until 1990. He is now a professor emeritus at Harvard. He has also served as faculty, guest lecturer, or visiting scholar at:

Frye in debate with a cleric in Shiraz, 1992.

Professor Frye helped found the Center for Middle Eastern Studies[2] at Harvard, the first Iranian studies program in America. He also served as Director of the Asia Institute in Shiraz (1970-1975), was on the Board of Trustees of the Pahlavi University at Shiraz (1974-78), and Chairman, Committee on Inner Asian Studies, at Harvard (1983-89), and as Editor of the Bulletin of the Asia Institute (1970-1975 and 1987-99).

Among Frye's students were Annemarie Schimmel,[3] Oleg Grabar,[4] Frank Huddle (former US Ambassador to Tajikistan), John Limbert, and Michael Crichton, whose Hollywood film The 13th Warrior is loosely based on Frye's translation of Ibn Fadlan's account of his travels up the river Volga.[5]

Frye was also directly responsible for inviting Iranian scholars as distinguished visiting fellows to Harvard University, under a fellowship program initiated by Henry Kissinger. Examples of such guests include Mehdi Haeri Yazdi (1923–1999), Sadegh Choubak, Jalal al Ahmad, and others.[6]

Frye as a proponent of Persian culture

The Qavam House, where the famous Shiraz University Asia Institute was founded. Frye headed the institute from 1969 to 1974.

Frye felt that Persian civilization was under-appreciated by other Muslims, and Arab Muslims in particular. Frye wrote:

"Arabs no longer understand the role of Iran and the Persian language in the formation of Islamic culture. Perhaps they wish to forget the past, but in so doing they remove the bases of their own spiritual, moral and cultural being…without the heritage of the past and a healthy respect for it…there is little chance for stability and proper growth."
(R. N. Frye, The Golden Age of Persia, London: Butler & Tanner Ltd., 1989, page 236)

Iranians responded enthusiastically to his appreciation.

In August 1953, shortly before the fall of Mosaddegh, prominent Iranian linguist Ali Akbar Dehkhoda gave Frye the title (laqab): "Irandoost" (meaning "a friend of Iran").[7]

A ceremony was held in Iran on June 27, 2004 to pay tribute to the six-decade endeavors of Professor Frye on his lifetime contribution to Iranology, research work on the Persian language, and the history and culture of Iran.

In his will, Professor Frye has expressed his wish to be buried next to the Zayandeh River in Isfahan. This request was approved by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in September 2007.[8] Two other American Iranologists, Arthur Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, are already buried there.

Frye as a public speaker

Frye is a popular public speaker at numerous Iran-related gatherings. In 2005, he spoke at UCLA, encouraging the Iranians present to cherish their culture and identity.[9][10] In 2004, he spoke at an architectural conference in Tehran, expressing his dismay at hasty modernization that ignores the beauties of traditional Iranian architectural styles (see Architecture of Tehran).

See also

Frye, Ronald Thomaszadeh, and prominent Iranian scholar Iraj Afshar in 2004 in Tehran.

Other notable Iranologists:


  • The Near East and the Great Powers, Harvard University Press, 1951
  • Iran, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1960
  • The Heritage of Persia: The pre-Islamic History of One of the World's Great Civilizations, World Publishing Company, New York, 1963
  • Bukhara: The Medieval Achievement, University of Oklahoma Press, 1965
  • The Histories of Nishapur, Harvard University Press, 1965
  • Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum, vol. III, Dura-Europos, London, 1968
  • Persia (3rd edition) Allen and Unwin, London, 1969
  • The United States and Turkey and Iran, Archon Books, 1971
  • Sasanian Remains from Qasr-i Abu Nasr. Seals, Sealings, and Coins, Harvard University Press, 1973
  • Neue Methodologie in der Iranistik, Wiesbaden, 1974
  • The Golden Age Of Persia: The Arabs in the East, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1993
  • The heritage of Central Asia from antiquity to the Turkish expansion Markus Wiener, Princeton, 1996
  • Notes on the Early Coinage of Transoxania; Numismatic Notes, 113, American Numismatic Association, New York
  • Greater Iran, Mazda Publishers, 2005, ISBN 1-56859-177-2
  • Ibn Fadlan's Journey To Russia, 2005, Markus Wiener Publishe, ISBN 1-55876-366-X


  1. ^ Greater Iran, Mazda Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1568591772
  2. ^ Kafadar, Cemal (November 22, 2005). "Crossing Boundaries: Remapping the Study of Middle East History". Harvard University Center for Middle Eastern Studies.  
  3. ^ Greater Iran, Mazda Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1568591772 p.193
  4. ^ Big Ideas. Big Thinkers. Oleg Grabar | Thirteen/WNET
  5. ^ Greater Iran, Mazda Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1568591772 p.90, p.150
  6. ^ Greater Iran, Mazda Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1568591772 p. 103, p.174
  7. ^ Greater Iran, Mazda Publishers, 2005. ISBN 1568591772 p. 142
  8. ^ Ahmadinejad allows burial of American professor in Iran, The Associated Press, Published: September 13, 2007.
  9. ^ Iran Heritage
  10. ^ Professor Richard Nelson Frye Lecture at UCLA Royce Hall - March 13, 2005

External links



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