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Fleming, John Gunther (1919–1997)

by Doug Smith

Emeritus Professor John Gunther Fleming, DPhil, DCL, died at his home in Point Richmond, California on 22 September. He was 78. Born in Germany and educated in England at Brentwood School, Essex and Brasenose College, Oxford, he joined the Royal Armoured Corps and served with Montgomery's Eighth Army in Italy during World War II.

In 1946 he was appointed to a Lectureship in Law at Kings College, London. Called to the Bar, Lincoln's Inn, in 1947 he remained at Kings College until 1949 when he accepted a Lectureship at Canberra University College. Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1954, the following year he became the first appointment to the Robert Garran Chair of Law in the College. In August 1960, just before the college amalgamated with the ANU, he left Canberra on his appointment to the Shannon Cecil Turner Chair of Law in the University of California, Berkeley. Though he retired from that Chair nearly 29 years later on reaching the statutory retiring age of 70, he continued to teach and write at Berkeley as Distinguished Emeritus Professor until a few months before his death.

For John, his wife Val and their four children, leaving Canberra was a wrench. It was a small community in which the College had for long held an affectionate place as the only institution, through its association with the University of Melbourne, offering undergraduate education. It was during his time at the College that he wrote The Law of Torts which became a standard work in common law jurisdictions for practitioners and students.

Professor Fleming returned to Australia a number of times and whenever possible came to the ANU Law School. A large memorial gathering at which all the family were present was held at Berkeley on October 3.

Original publication

Citation details

Doug Smith, 'Fleming, John Gunther (1919–1997)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 9 August 2020.

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