IMAGE:  April 2003  GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
APRIL 2003
Volume 95, Issue 4
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Unexpected Expertise  
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Clouding the Issues

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Unexpected Expertise

Dan Dry


Robert Grant Sunken Submarines

As he picks his way through the close quarters of the Museum of Science and Industry’s U-Boat 505 exhibit, Robert Grant quickly points out that he’s more interested in destroyed submarines than preserved ones.

In fact, the Carl Darling Buck professor emeritus of New Testament and early Christianity has spent the past 77 years attempting to correct the historical record of the places and events surrounding the sinkings of World War I German U-boats. He traces his research back to his ninth year, when his Aunt Eleanor gave him a copy of Lowell Thomas’s Raiders of the Deep.

IMAGE:  Robert Grant - Sunken Submarines

“The lost U-boats seemed highly mysterious, especially when in the Evanston Public Library I compared Thomas’s accounts with those of others,” he says. “I started to correct my copy of Raiders confidently and in ink.” Those first historical corrections started Grant on a path that eventually led to two books: U-Boats Destroyed (1964) and U-Boat Intelligence (1969).

IMAGE:  Robert Grant - Sunken SubmarinesHis latest book, U-Boat Hunters, which corrects the other two, is due this year from Periscope Publishing. Hunters is based on divers’ recent explorations of destroyed U-Boats off the British and Belgian coasts. And it’s remarkable how much history has gotten wrong. “If you claim you sank a U-boat, divers can go down and take a look,” Grant says. “In most cases there’s nothing—the boats got away.”

Grant likes to think that his work on U-boats and his scholarly work is “all the same thing: finding new materials.” In his former day job as a professor in the Divinity School, he published 47 books on early Christianity, on topics ranging from gnosticism to the Dead Sea Scrolls. His latest, Second-Century Christianity: A Collection of Fragments, will be published this spring by Westminster Press. Like Hunters, it corrects his previous work on the topic.

Quips Grant, “I’ll spend my retirement correcting myself.”


Select an expert:

Riccardo Levi-Setti - Trilobites

Richard Epstein - Parking and Property

Mary Anne Case - Toilet Inequities

Roman Weil - Vintage Wine

Robert Grant - Sunken Submarines

David Galenson - Poetic Values

John Milton - Poise and Noise



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