Former History Professor Dies; Was African Studies Pioneer

Dr. Kenneth O. Dike, a former Harvard professor, died on October 26 is Jinugu, Nigeria. His death, at age 65, became known on November 11.

Dike, who was a member of the History Department from 1970 to 1979, was the first Mellon Professor of African History at Harvard. While he taught here he was who chairman of the Committee on African Studies. He was president of Alhambra State University when he died.

"He was a loyal, active member of the department, and he taught very successfully," John Womack Jr. '59, chairman of the History Department, said yesterday.

In the 1970s Dike established the first History Department survey courses on Sub-Saharan Africa, and laid the groundwork for more instruction in that area, Womack said. "Until he came, there was no serious instruction, given in that field," he added.

Born in Awka, Nigeria in 1917, Dike received his B.A. from the University of Durham, England in 1943, his M.A. from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland in 1947, and his Ph.D. from the University of London in 1950.

Dike served as senior research fellow at the West African Institute of Social and Economic Research at Nigeria's Ibadan University from 1952 to 1954.

He also served as Vice Chancellor there from 1960 to 1967.

He had been chairman of the organizing committee for the International Congress of Africanists, founder and first director of the Nigerian National Archives, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the author of the 1956 book "Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta, 1830-1885."

"He was certainly a leading figure among African historians in the U.S. and worldwide," said Wonmack. "It was a serious loss to the department when he decided to go back to Nigeria," he recalled.

Dike is survived by his wife Ona and children Nacka, Chiawe, Ona, Emeka, and Chi Chinwe, Ona, and Ohi live in Cambridge.