Stanley Wolpert

Prof. Stanley Wolpert, an historian, author, and expert on South Asia, died Feb. 19 at the age of 91. (UCLA Newsroom/ Oxford University Press photo)

Stanley Wolpert, University of California, Los Angeles professor emeritus of history and a prolific author of books about South Asia, died Feb. 19, the university announced April 10. He was 91.

Wolpert’s teaching career at UCLA spanned six decades, including time served as chair of the history department and in a vice chancellorship, the university described in an In Memoriam statement, adding: “Campus colleagues, students and the literary world remember him as the epitome of grace and intellect.”

“Stanley was always willing to make time for a fellow colleague or student, listening to a problem, or grabbing a sandwich in the sculpture garden,” said Peter Loewenberg, UCLA professor emeritus of history.

Wolpert, said the university, is “revered” for his contributions to literature and the history of South Asia. He published more than a dozen scholarly books, including biographies of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru of India as well as biographies of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan. His “New History of India” has appeared in eight editions, and his more general cultural introduction, “India,” is in its fourth edition. (Read earlier India-West story here:

Several generations of students benefited from and admired not only his knowledge, but his unfailing generosity, said Ron Mellor, UCLA history professor.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Wolpert received his bachelor of arts degree from City College of New York, and later his master’s and doctoral degrees in Indian history from the University of Pennsylvania. He arrived at UCLA in 1958 and was promoted to professor in 1967. He was department chair and won the distinguished teaching award in 1975.

“Wolpert’s passion for India and its people and history was sparked as a young man serving on merchant marine ship,” the statement read. “He landed in Bombay just weeks after Gandhi’s death and witnessed the outpouring of grief of a nation that he later wrote, ‘changed the course of my life.’”

Of his four novels, said the university, the most notable remains “Nine Hours to Rama,” published in 1961. “The fictionalized accounting of the day Nathuram Godse assassinated Gandhi was made into an American film directed by Mark Robson the following year. Both book and film were banned in India and remain so to this day,” it said.

He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Dorothy, and his sons Daniel and Adam, his daughters-in-law Debra and Katy, as well as three grandchildren, Sam, Max and Sabine.

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