Philip K. Hitti, 92, professor emeritus of Semitic literature at Princeton University, died Dec. 24 at the Princeton (N.J.) Medical Center. He suffered congestive heart failure.
He retired in 1954 after 28 years on the Princeton faculty. He chaired the department of Oriental languages and literature from 1941 until he retired. He also was the first director of Princeton's Near Eastern Studies Program.
Mr. Hitti started teaching courses on the Middle East at a time when fewer than a dozen American universities did so.
He once wrote, "The American public, even at its educated level, was then almost illiterate so far as the Arabs and Moslems were concerned. The rare courses in this field were limited to a few graduate schools and offered as subsidiary to Semitic studies and as contributory to philology or linguistics."
In 1937, he published his "History of the Arabs," now a standard work in the field of Middle East studies that has gone through 11 editions.
Mr. Hitti served as a consultant to a number of government agencies. During World War II, he directed Princeton's area study program in Turkish and Arabic studies as part of a specialized Army training program.
After the war, he was an adviser to the Arab state delegations at the organizational meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco.
Mr. Hitti later served on American cultural missions to the Middle East.
He received awards from the governments of Egypt, Syria and Lebanon for his historical work.
Mr. Hitti's books ranged from the 1924 publication of "The Semitic Languages Spoken in Syria and Lebanon" to "Islam: A Way Of Life," published in 1970. His other works included histories of Lebanon and Syria, "History of the Druze People and Religion" and "Makers of Arab History."
Mr. Hitti was born in Shimlan, Mount Lebanon, then part of Syria. He graduated from the American University of Beirut in 1908, and later earned a doctoral degree at Columbia University.
He worked in the Middle East as a member of the administrative committee of Near East Relief for Syria and Palestine from 1921 to 1924, before returning to this country and joining the Princeton faculty.
Mr. Hitti belonged to a number of organizations related to the study of Near Eastern languages. He was an editorial consultant to the Encyclopedia Britannica.
He is survived by a daughter, Viola H. Winder, of Princeton; a brother, Dr. Joseph Hitti, and a sister, Mrs. Najib Jabbour, both of Beirut, and one grandchild.