Ge­of­frey Lewis


The Jewish Chronicle - - Obituaries -

Api­oneer of the study of Turk­ish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture in this coun­try, Pro­fes­sor Ge­of­frey Lewis was al­most sin­gle-hand­edly re­spon­si­ble for its in­tro­duc­tion to the Univer­sity of Ox­ford, writes Ge­of­frey Al­der­man.

Af­ter Univer­sity Col­lege School, Lon­don, he read clas­sics at Ox­ford, which sparked his in­ter­est in Turk­ish. In the Sec­ond World War he served in the RAF, in radar. Re­turn­ing to Ox­ford, he gained a first in Ara­bic and Per­sian in 1947.

Three years later he gained his DPhil and was ap­pointed the univer­sity’s first lec­turer in Turk­ish. In 1960 he was elected fel­low of St. An­thony’s Col­lege, and in 1986 be­came Ox­ford’s first and, to date, only pro­fes­sor of Turk­ish stud­ies.

His Teach Your­self Turk­ish, first pub­lished in 1953, is still re­garded as the au­thor­i­ta­tive in­tro­duc­tion to the lan­guage, and his Turk­ish Gram­mar (1967) as a stan­dard work. His wider cul­tural study, In­tro­duc­tion to Turkey (1955) is still re­garded as a mas­ter­piece.

His defence of Ot­toman em­pire vo­cab­u­lary did not pre­vent him re­ceiv­ing nu­mer­ous hon­ours from the Turk­ish repub­lic. His pro­mo­tion of friend­ship be­tween the UK and Turkey was recog­nised with the ap­point­ment of CMG in 1990. He was elected a Fel­low of the Bri­tishA­cade­myin1979and­waspres­i­dentof the An­glo-Turk­ish So­ci­ety from 2003.

In 1941 he mar­ried Raphaela Bale-Sei­de­man, sub­se­quently an avid stu­dent of Turk­ish life and au­thor of a mono­graph. The Lewis’s be­friended Jewish stu­dents at Ox­ford. Ge­of­frey was ac­tive in Ox­ford B’nai B’rith and its pres­i­dent in 1989. A close friend of Ox­ford Jewish scholar Ce­cil Roth, he re­searched with him on the 17th-cen­tury false mes­siah, Turk­ish-born Shab­batai Zevi.

Af­ter their daugh­ter, Lalage’s, death in 1976, the cou­ple helped bring up her two chil­dren. Raphaela died in 2004. Ge­of­frey is sur­vived by a son, Jonathan, four grand­chil­dren and a great-grand­child.

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