Knox was born in 1930 in New York City. His father died in 1933. Subsequently, during a time when few women pursued scientific careers, his mother attained a PhD in microbiology from Columbia, where she had a career as a virologist and immunologist.
Knox explored pre-medical and humanities studies at Princeton in 1948-49, but he left near the end of his freshman year. He began anew at Colgate University where he received great support from a sociologist, Raymond Ries, who suggested a career in academe. During his college years, when he struggled with direction, he found his passion in the study of sociology and writing. In 1955, Knox earned a BA degree magna cum laude from Colgate.
At Colgate, Knox was in the Air Force ROTC. A photo-radar intelligence officer (1960-1963), his duties included making air target charts for bombing practice and evaluating U-2 flight paths.
Gordon Streib, a preeminent gerontologist, advised Knox at Cornell University where he attained his doctorate degree in 1965. After earning his PhD, Knox joined the faculty at University of North Carolina-Greensboro (UNCG) in 1963, where he specialized in social psychology and the sociology of education.
Knox took a leave of absence from UNCG to pursue a National Institute of Mental Health grant to study the George Junior Republic (GJR) in Freeville, NY. Teaching at Greensboro for more than four decades, Knox chaired UNCG’s Sociology Department from 1990-94.
Following his retirement in 1994, Knox has written many op-ed pieces and participates in the American Civil Liberties Union, environmental organizations, and fundraising for UNCG. An avid photographer, he has exhibited in juried and museum shows. He currently works intermittently on a memoir. He and his wife, Diana, a special education teacher, have been happily married for 58 years. The result of their marriage was three children and seven grandchildren.