British academicDied when: 73 years 248 days (884 months)
Star Sign: Taurus
Roderick Ninian Smart (6 May 1927 – 29 January 2001) was a Scottish writer and university educator.He was a pioneer in the field of secular religious studies.
In 1967 he established the first department of religious studies in the United Kingdom at the new University of Lancaster where he was also Pro-Vice-Chancellor, having already chaired one of the largest and most prestigious departments of theology in Britain at the University of Birmingham.
In 1976, he became the first J.F.Rowny Professor in the Comparative Study of Religions at University of California, Santa Barbara.
Smart presented the Gifford Lectures in 1979–80.In 1996, he was named the Academic Senate's research professor, the highest professorial rank at UC Santa Barbara.
In 2000, he was elected president of the American Academy of Religion, while simultaneously retaining his status as president of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace.
Smart held both titles at the time of his death.Smart became widely known outside the academy, at least in Britain, when he was editorial consultant for the major BBC television series, The Long Search (1977).
His book The World's Religions (1989) also reached a considerable popular readership.His defence of religious studies as a secular discipline helped the formation of departments in many public universities, especially in the United States.
He distanced religious studies from traditional theology in that evaluating truth claims and apology have no role but regarded investigation into the "truth and worth" of religion per se as a valid academic enterprise in the public arena of state-funded education.