Lyndon Harries

Credentials: (1909-1980)

Lyndon Harries (back row, second from the left) passed away on November 17, 1980 at his retirement home in Chilton, Wisconsin. His dual career as an Episcopalian priest and as a scholar and teacher of African languages and literature spanned more than fifty years.

Harries was born January 11, 1909 in Port Talbot, Glamorgan, U.K. He completed his B.A. (Honours, English) at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford in 1930. After two years’ further study  at Ely Theological College, Cambridge, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England. In 1935, he began ten years’ service as a missionary in the diocese of Maasai in southern Tanganyika. His first publications in the field of African languages, linguistics, and literature date from this period.

In 1945, he returned to the U.K. and began a four-year research fellowship at the school of Oriental and African Studies, University of London; during the final two years of the fellowship, he conducted research in Kenya on the tonal structure of Kikuyu. In 1953, he received his Ph.D. from SOAS.

During his tenure at SOAS, Harries’ research took him to the Congo in 1955, where he made a survey of 26 previously unstudied Bantu languages. In 1958, he had a study leave to conduct research on the Swahili Coast of East Africa.  He returned to the region again in 1962, working in Kenya, Zanzibar, and Tanganyika.

In 1964, Harries joined the faculty of the newly-formed Department of African Languages and Literature, now the Department of African Cultural Studies, at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He served as department chairman there from 1965 through 1969.

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