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Honoured for his Turkish expertise
7:39pm Wednesday 27th February 2008 in Obituaries
Prof Geoffrey Lewis, one of the men responsible for introducing Turkish studies to Oxford University, has died aged 87.
Prof Lewis was born in 1920 and educated at University College School, in north London, before attending Oxford.
He took up Turkish as a hobby on the advice of his Latin tutor and it was something that would change his life forever.
While reading classics at St John's College, his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Joining the RAF, he served as a radar operator between 1940 and 1945, mainly in Egypt and Libya, pursuing his hobby whenever possible while in the Middle East.
After the war, Prof Lewis decided to read Arabic and Persian.
In 1941, he married Raphaela Rhoda Bale Seideman, his childhood sweetheart, and the couple would go on to have two children together.
He visited Turkey as often as possible, and in 1947, spent six months in the country to further improve his Turkish.
That same year, he was awarded first-class honours in his Arabic and Persian studies.
Prof Lewis had kept up his Turkish studies and in 1950, was appointed university lecturer in Turkish at Oxford.
In 1953, he published his first book in the field, Teach Yourself Turkish, which is still regarded as one of the best introductions to the language.
He went on to become senior lecturer in Islamic studies, senior lecturer in Turkish and finally Professor of Turkish before being elected to a Fellowship at St Antony's College, Oxford, in 1961.
Prof Lewis's work was also honoured by the Turkish Government, which presented him with the Certificate of Merit in 1973, the Exceptional Service Plaque of the Foreign Ministry in 1991 and the historic Order of Merit of the Turkish Republic in 1998.
He retired from college life in 1987 but still kept his hand in academia.
He published his final work, The Turkish Language Reform: A Catastrophic Success, in 1999.
Prof Lewis passed away on February 12. He is survived by his son Jonathan.