Professor Yarshater received his Ph.D. in Persian language and literature from the University of Tehran (1947) and then he studied with W. B. Henning at London University, from which he received an M.A. and a Ph.D. degree in Old and Middle Iranian (1960).
He first came to Columbia in 1958 and was appointed to the Kevorkian Chair in 1961. He founded the Center for Iranian Studies in 1968.
Prof. Yarshater has authored and served as the editor of numerous scholarly works. Among others he has authored Persian Poetry in the Second Half of the 15th Century(1953), Southern Tati Dialects (1970), and has edited the third volume of Cambridge History of Iran, in two parts, covering the Seleucid, Parthian and Sasanian periods (1983,1986), and Highlights of Persian Literature (1988). Professor Yarshater founded the Encyclopædia Iranica in 1974 and he continues to edit it. He is the General Editor of the 40-volume Tabari Translation Project, and the Founding Editor of the Persian Text Series, the Persian Heritage Series, the Columbia Lectures in Iranian Studies, and the Persian Studies Series.
Lecture series in his name have been instituted at the University of London, and the University of California at Los Angeles, and at the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in Paris. In addition to receiving the Georgio Levi Della Vida Medal for Achievement in Islamic Studies from UCLA in 1991, Professor Yarshater has been elected honorary member of the International Society for Iranian Studies, the Societas Europaeas Iranologica, and the Institute of Central and West Asian Studies in Pakistan.