Bernard Lewis (center)
Bernard Lewis (center)REUTERS

Bernard Lewis, one of the leading experts on the Middle East, passed away Saturday in Voorhees Township in New Jersey at the age of 101.

Born in London in 1916, Lewis graduated from the University of London’s School of Oriental Studies in 1936, where he also earned his PhD in history three years later at the age of 23.

During World War II, Lewis served in the British Royal Armoured Corps, before being transferred to the Intelligence Corps.

After the war, Lewis taught history at the University of London’s School of Oriental Studies, before accepting a position at Princeton in 1974, where he taught for 12 years.

A founder of the Middle East Studies Association of North America in 1966, four decades later, Lewis founded the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa.

A prolific researcher, Lewis produced 33 books and hundreds of scholarly articles. Much of Lewis research focused on the history of radical Islamism, and its effect on relations between the West and Islamic countries, though his 1986 work, Semites and Anti-Semites highlighted the link between Soviet and Arab anti-Semitic propaganda targeting Israel.

Twenty years later, Lewis warned that Iran may, if it obtained nuclear weapons, initiate a nuclear conflict with Israel, following a “suicide or martyrdom complex” with a desire to bring on an “apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary the world.”

In a 1990 article entitled “The Roots of Muslim Rage”, Lewis coined the phrase, “clash of civilizations” – a term later popularized by Samuel P. Huntington’s book of the same name.

Senior officials in the George W. Bush administration sought Lewis out for advice on Middle East policy, including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

“No one offered sounder analysis or better insight than Bernard Lewis,” said Cheney.

In 2006, Lewis was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Bush.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement eulogizing Lewis, describing him as a "hard-nosed defender of democracies around the world".

"The world lost a true scholar and great man, Bernard Lewis, this past week. There is less knowledge and less wit with us today following his passing. I met him only once, but read much of what he wrote. I owe a great deal of my understanding of the Middle East to his work. Mr. Lewis was a hard-nosed defender of democracies around the world -- including in the Middle East. He was also man who believed, as I do, that Americans must be more confident in the greatness of our country, not less. Thank you Mr. Lewis for your life of service, well done."