Sydney Nettleton Fisher was born on August 8, 1906, in Warsaw, New York. His parents, Addison Washburn Fisher (1873-1947, enrolled 1892-95 Oberlin Preparatory Academy, attended Oberlin College 1895-99, 1899-00 summer school) and Pearl Ellen Nettleton Fisher (1871-1961, enrolled 1891-93 Oberlin Preparatory Academy, attended Oberlin College 1895-1898) were Oberlin graduates, as well as Robert Dean Fisher (1903-1978, Oberlin College Class of 1926), older brother of Sydney N. Fisher. With the assistance of a four-year undergraduate scholarship, Fisher received his A.B. degree, in Economics, from Oberlin College in 1928. In 1932, he earned an M.A degree in history from Oberlin. He then went on to the University of Illinois for graduate studies and in 1935 Fisher was awarded the Ph.D. in History. With grants from the American Council of Learned Societies, he pursued post-doctoral studies at Princeton University and the University of Brussels. Because of his exceptional academic record, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. He went on to become a specialist in Middle East history and is cited in the Directory of American Scholars, Fifth Edition, page 160, for his numerous professional accomplishments through out his life.
While studying at Oberlin, Fisher participated on the college track and baseball teams. He maintained an active social schedule, by attending many lectures, art exhibitions and performances. In his autobiography, Fisher recalls many nights spent dancing in "Rec Hall", in the basement of Rice or playing bridge with fellow house mates from the Men's Building and Delta Lodge. In his senior year, Fisher earned an appointment to teach for Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey.
At Robert College, Fisher taught twenty hours a week including two classes of arithmetic, one of algebra, one of English reading and one of beginning English. After a visit from the Head of Academy English, Fisher recalls his English reading class was replaced by fifth academy geometry and math became his subject at Robert College. Fisher's experiences at Robert College are well documented in his letters to his parents. (These letters can be found in the Sydney N. Fisher Papers of Oberlin College.)
Upon returning from three years of teaching math for Robert College, Fisher accepted an appointment to teach History at Dennison University. In 1937, he joined the history faculty of Ohio State University, being named full professorship in 1955. During World War II, Fisher served the government in Washington D.C. with the Board of Economic Warfare, Foreign Economic Administration and the Department of State. He is the author of many books and scholarly articles on Middle East History, including what became a standard college text book in Middle East history, The Middle East: A History. He served as Director of Publications of the Middle East Institute, as well as Editor of the Middle East Journal, during the academic year of 1952-53.
The Royal Historical Society of London recognized Fisher's scholarly accomplishments by electing him a Fellow in 1951. In 1982 The Board of Trustees of The Ohio State University awarded him with the Distinguished Service Award. Fisher was also a member of the Middle East Institute and the American Historical Association.
Sydney Fisher married Elizabeth Evelyn Scipio, in 1938, and they had four children (Alan, Robert, John who did not survive infancy, and Margaret). In a letter to the Oberlin College Alumni Office, from Alan Fisher (Sydeny N. Fisher's oldest son), he states " it was a great disappointment to Sydney that none of his own children attended Oberlin," although, Fisher's grandson entered the Conservatory in 1987. Fisher remained a life-long friend of Oberlin and was active in the Alumni Association.
After retiring from The Ohio State University in 1972, Fisher remained an advisor to doctoral students preparing their dissertations. At the time of his death, Fisher was working on the fourth revised edition of his textbook. He died December 10, 1987.