George K. Zipf '23, University Lecturer, died Monday evening at his home in Newton. He had been ill for about three months. He was 48.
Zipf was known particularly for his statistical treatment of the frequency of word use. He had carried over his methods into the study of such diverse subjects as the size of cities and the concentration of economic power and social status.
After his graduation summa cum laude from the College, Zipf studied at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin, but returned to Harvard to obtain his A.M. and Ph.D. degrees. He joined the teaching staff, soon becoming an assistant professor, and was appointed University Lecturer in 1939.
This post, of which there is only one, is like the University Professorships in that it transcends ordinary departmental divisions.
As an example of this, Zipf was the director of German A, the elementary German course, while he gave courses last year in the Social Relations department. This fall, he planned to devote himself to research under a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation.