Arthur Darby Nock, Frothingham Professor of the History of Religions, died Friday afternoon after a week of severe illness.
The death of the 60-year-old scholar left a wide circle of friends and correspondents in Europe and America stunned. Nock was widely regarded as the leading authority on the history of religion.
Nock, at 28, became the youngest full professor at Harvard in a half century upon his arrival from Cambridge University, England, in 1930. From the time of his appointment to the chair he held until his death, Nock's reputation as a scholar grew.
During his first eight years here, Nock published his classic studies "Conversions" (1933) and "St. Paul" (1938). Because of his encyclopedic memory and the extraordinary range of his reading, colleagues recall that Nock was consulted by experts far outside his field to verify facts, recommend reading, and locate sources.
"He was above all a professional scholar," Zeph Stewart, professor of Greek and Latin, said. "In his rooms, he lived very much a lonely scholar's life. But he was a joyful and generous friend outside."
Mrs. Mark DeWolfe Howe, a close friend of Nock's for many years, called him "one of the last eccentrics. He did many, many kind things that no one ever knew about."
John H. Finley, Master of Eliot House, where Nock lived in quarters built especially for him at the time of its construction, described Nock as an extraordinary scholar and a warm man.
"As a young man, he was a stupor mundi," Finley said. "He lived very thoroughly the life of a professional scholar. He was not very active in the House, but he loved it. He got to know some of the undergraduates and sometimes he would come up behind one, tap him on the shoulder and quote some unintelligible Latin, or English which sounded like Latin."
Crane Brinton, Chairman of Harvard's Society of Fellows, recalled that Nock had enjoyed "telling shaggy dog stories" at the Society's weekly dinners. "He was a well-known anecdotist," Brinton said. "He was active both in the election of Junior Fellows and at our dinners until his death." Nock was for 25 years a Senior Fellow in the Society.
During the last years of his life, Finley said, Nock "became immersed in an infinite particularity of memory. His knowledge was not like a rope, but like a beach of sand."
Finley described Nock's system of taking notes. He would tear pieces of paper off undergraduate blue books,
Funeral services for Arthur Darby Nock will be held in the Memorial Church in Harvard Yard at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow. The Rev. R. Jerrold Gibson, acting chairman of the Board of Ministers, and Krister Stendahl of the Harvard Divinity School will lead the services.
scribble notes on them, and put them in a bag behind his desk. Later he would take them out and put them between the pages of books which lay in piles around the room. "Once I remember he told me he had misplaced a book," Finley said. "Sometimes I wondered how he managed to find anything."
Nock's undergraduate course, History of Religions 101, was well-known to students at the University. Undergraduates packed the front rows of seats at his lectures, straining to hear what the sometimes unintelligible scholar was saying