Dr. Inabel Burns Lindsay, 83, a founder and the first dean of the Howard University Graduate School of Social Work and a widely recognized authority in her field, died Sept. 10 at the Washington Home. She had diabetes.

Dr. Lindsay was appointed dean of the School of Social Work in 1940. By the time she retired in 1967, the school had grown to 210 full-time graduate students and was one of the 15 largest in the country.

In 1958, she traveled to Scandinavia for the State Department to survey social welfare prorgrams for the aged and for dependent children. In 1960, she helped found Jamaica's School of Social Work and developed staff training for the Virgin Islands' social welfare department. From 1968 to 1970, she was a member of the executive women's corps of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.

She was a delegate to the 1966 White House Conference on Civil Rights and served on the D.C. Public Welfare Advisory Board. She was a consultant to the House and Senate committees on aging. She served on the board of the National Urban League and was secretary of the board of the National Council on Aging. She was chairman of the D.C. chapter of the American Association of Social Workers.

Dr. Lindsay, who lived in Washington, was a native of St. Joseph, Mo. She missed the first three years of elementary school because of eye trouble. After the affliction was controlled, she entered the fourth grade and was able to finish high school ahead of time. In 1920, at the age of 19, she graduated from Howard with honors.

She then received a scholarship from the Urban League to study for a year at the New York School of Social Work, now part of Columbia University. She earned a master's degree at the University of Chicago and a doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh.

From the late 1920s through the mid-1930s, Dr. Lindsay taught in Kansas City, Mo., and helped build Missouri public welfare agencies and instruct their staffs. She joined the Howard faculty in 1938 as an associate professor of sociology.

She received the distinguished alumnus award from Howard in 1961 and the University of Pittsburgh in 1971. She received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Howard in 1982.

She was a member of St. Augustine's Episcopal Church in Washington.

Survivors include her husband of 58 years, Arnett G. Lindsay of Washington.