Since its foundation nearly a century ago, this Society has owed its continuing vitality to a succession of individuals who, while being themselves able scholars, realized that enthusiasm is of little use without sustained address to humdrum tasks like administration, planning, proof-reading and begging, and have given generously of their time and energy to keeping our activities going at a cultural and scholarly level in which we may take pride. One thinks of Lucien Wolf and Israel Abrahams, of Albert Hyamson and Cecil Roth: and to the roll of departed giants we must now add the name of Richard Barnett, whose passing on 29 July 1986 we mourn.
This is not the occasion for an obituary account of close detail, but what is, perhaps, in place is to sketch the traditions and influences that moulded Richard, and thanks to which he was so well endowed with the gifts that he laid at the Society's service-as its President, as chairman of its executive committee, as honorary editor of our publications, and in a host of other ways as well.
First, then, his home. Lionel Barnett, his father, began as a classical scholar, and while at Trinity College, Cambridge, he turned his attention towards Sanskrit; he went on to become in due course Keeper of the Oriental Books and Manuscripts at the British Museum and one of the leading indologists of Europe. He also commanded very significant Hebrew competence, and on his moving to London he was encouraged by Haham Dr Moses Gaster to join the Sephardi congregation, the Records Committee of which-designed to make accessible the Congregation's important series of archives-was the elder Barnett's creation. Richard's home background thus gave him both an example and a pointer. During the First World War he was evacuated to Oxford, the architecture and atmosphere of which can hardly leave an intelligent child untouched; after which it was St Paul's-still a bastion of humane yet rigorous training in the Greek and Latin classics-and so on to Corpus, Cambridge, and classical archaeology. Fieldwork in Asia Minor and Iraq, administrative experience at the British School of Archaeology at Athens and subsequently on the staff of the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum, gave him the foundation of his professional expertise. Then came the war and service in the Middle East, and so back to his Museum Department, to the headship of which-Egyptology having become a separate section-he in due course succeeded as Keeper of Western Asiatic Antiquities. All this time his stature and reputation as a specialist in Near Eastern antiquity were growing: a year or two before his death, they earned him the accolade of a volume of scholarly articles published in his honour. Here one can but mention his work on the Nimrud ivories and the reliefs that include illustrations of the Assyrian siege of Lakhish, and his masterly reorganization of the Assyrian and Babylonian galleries in the Museum, where the great gates flanked by their winged bulls can now be seen more