Harvard's top Semitic linguist will leave the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations this June--11 years before he reaches the University's standard retirement age, 66 in order to continue his research privately.
"I've been over achieving since first grade and I want to work at my own pace. "Lambdin explained.
It is extremely unusual for Harvard professors to retire this early. Two Faculty administrators interviewed yesterday said that they could not remember anyone doing so in the last five years.
Less than one percent of the Faculty leaves the University each year for reasons other than normal retirement added Phyllis Keller, associate dean of academic affairs.
The department has submitted its nomination for Lambdin's replacement to Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky, said department Chairman Muhsin S. Mahdi. He added that the department hopes to offer the nominee an appointment as an associate professor in the department later this spring.
Department sources said yesterday that the scholar under consideration is currently at Columbia University, but they declined to disclose his identity.
Lambdin teaches a wide variety of subjects--including at least a halt dozen Semitic languages--and "will be very difficult to replace." John Strugnell. Lamont Professor of Divinity, said yesterday.
Mahdi lauded Lambdin as one of the top Semitic scholars in the world, and "one of the greatest teachers at Harvard. "He added that Lambdin "devotes an enormous amount of time to his students."
In addition. Lambdin has authored a number of introductory textbooks on Semitic languages that are in use at universities throughout the world.
His text book of Biblical Hebrew is the most lucid one that exists." Said Andras Hamon, a professor of Arabic Princeton University and a former student of Lambdin.
Lambdin, who came to Harvard from Johns Hopkins University in 1960, said that the demands of his postition prevented him from exploring areas outside of his field. In addition to writing two books, on historical Semitic grammar and on Egyptian mortuary texts. Lambdin plan to compile a research dictionary that will allow others to continue his work.
Department members said yesterday that they hoped Lambdin would remain in the area so that he would be available for consultation.