The Times/1919/Obituary/Leonard William King
A Famous Antiquary
A Correspondent writes:— By the premature death, announced in The Times last Saturday, of Dr. Leonard William King, at the age of 49, science loses a brilliant scholar in the field of Assyriology. Not only had he a European reputation on the literary side, but his vigorous personality and love of open air and adventure led him also to travel, to see and excavate the palaces of ancient Assyrian Kings—a duel capacity so often demanded of archæologists nowadays. Educated at Rugby and King's College, Cambridge, he entered the Egyptian and Assyrian Department of the British Museum shortly after he came down. His first work, "Babylonian Magic and Sorcery," in 1896, showed a mastery of his subject, coupled with that accuracy and care for which he was always known. This was followed shortly by the "Letters of Hammurabi," which is still the classical work on the subject.
Not long after he made a trip to Mesopotamia with a view to making excavations, and, as a result, he re-opened a year later the diggings on the site of Konyunjik (nineveh), where he worked for more than a year for the British Museum, until dysentery compelled him to return home and relinquish his place to a colleague. During this period of excavations, he made an expedition into Persia to re-copy the great Inscription of Darius on the rock fact at Behistun (which Sir Henry Rawlinson had previously published in the early days of his decipherment of cuneiform), and he and his colleague camped for a fortnight beneath the inscription in order to carry out the task. The whole text was satisfactorily re-copied, with the help of ropes and tackling, and ultimately published by the British Museum with a full translation. It would be unnecessary to quote more than a few of King's works, which are all well known to Semitic scholars, but perhaps the monumental history of Babylonia, on which he was engaged at the time of his death, stands first of all his publications. Two volumes of this work have already appeared.
He became a Litt.D. (Cambridge) early in his career, and was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries; King's College, London, also elected him Professor of Assyrian and Babylonian Archæology. Those who worked with him can testify to one of the noble points of his character, always to be found in the unselfish masters of craft, that he never forgot his juniors, was ever ready to help them, and was scrupulously careful that they should have the credit for all the work they did. after the war broke out he put his knowledge of the Near East at the disposal of the Government in London. He leaves a wife and one son and daughter.