In Memoriam: Alan Watson

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The School of Law regrets to announce the passing of Alan Watson, one of the world's foremost authorities on Roman law, comparative law, legal history, and law and religion, who passed away November 7, 2018, at the age of 85. Watson was a former Distinguished Research Professor and the holder of the Ernest P. Rogers Chair at the law school, where he taught for more than 20 years before retiring in 2012. Watson leaves behind a tremendous legacy, and he will be missed by many. Memorial service details will be forthcoming.

 

The scholarly life of Alan Watson

Alan Watson, one of the world's foremost authorities on Roman law, comparative law, legal history, and law and religion, passed away November 7, 2018, at the age of 85. 

Watson was a former Distinguished Research Professor and the holder of the Ernest P. Rogers Chair at the University of Georgia School of Law, where he taught for more than 20 years before retiring in 2012. His course list included: Comparative Law, Jurisprudence, Law in the Gospels and Western Legal Tradition.

A prolific scholar and master of more than one dozen languages, Watson has nearly 150 books and articles to his credit, and his books have been translated into countless dialects. Select scholarship includes the revolutionary books Legal Transplants: An Approach to Comparative Law (1974) and Society and Legal Change (1977) as well as The Evolution of Western Private Law (2000), Jesus and the Jews: The Pharisaic Tradition in John (1995), Ancient Law and Modern Understanding: At the Edges (1998), Sources of Law, Legal Change, and Ambiguity (2d ed., 1998), Legal History and a Common Law for Europe (2001), Authority of Law; and Law (2003) and The Shame of American Legal Education (2005). In addition, he served as the editor of The Digest of Justinian, 2d ed., overseeing its translation from the original Latin into English. Notably, he coined the term "legal transplants" which is now ubiquitous in legal literature.

Watson was honored by his international colleagues in 2000-01 when two collections of essays were presented in his honor: an American volume, Lex et Romanitas: Essays for Alan Watson, and the European volume, Ancient Law, Comparative Law & Legal History.

Watson regularly served as a distinguished lecturer at leading universities in the United States and such countries as Italy, Holland, Germany, France, Poland, South Africa, Israel and Yugoslavia. He attended several sessions regarding the development of a common law for the European Union, including one in Maastricht in 2000 and, at the request of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), served as a member of the two-person U.S. team helping to revise the draft civil code for the new Republic of Armenia.

Watson held seven degrees including a master's and law degree from the University of Glasgow; a bachelor's (by decree), master's, doctor of philosophy and doctor of civil law degrees from Oxford University; and a doctor of laws degree from the University of Edinburgh. Additionally he was awarded six honorary degrees from the universities of Belgrade, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Palermo, Pretoria and Stockholm. Of special note, he taught at all of these universities in addition to the University of Pennsylvania, where he held the Nicolas F. Gallicchio Chair and was a University Professor. From 1968 to 1980, he was an honorary visiting professor at the University of Edinburgh, where he held the Chair of Civil Law. In 1997, he was elected a Visiting Honorary Professor of Private Law at the University of Edinburgh, the highest honorary award bestowed by the Scottish faculty.

In 2012, Watson was presented with a lifetime achievement award by the American Society of Comparative Law. His colleagues at the University of Belgrade established the Alan Watson Foundation in his honor during 2005. This foundation is dedicated to developing international cooperation in the fields of comparative law and legal history.

Watson was also an honorary member of the Speculative Society and served as North American secretary of the Stair Society. He was an editorial board member for the Juridical Review, the Journal of Legal History, the Journal of Comparative Law, the Belgrade Law JournalIURA, the European Lawyer Journal and the American Journal of Legal History.

He is survived by his wife, Camilla Emanuel Watson, a professor at the University of Georgia School of Law; children, Sarah Alexandra Campbell of Dacula, Georgia, Eleanor Ann McCulloch of Sydney, Australia, and David Jardine Watson of London, England; grandchildren, Wyatt Alexander Jardine Campbell, Emma Frances Jardine McCulloch and Rosie Piper Jardine McCulloch.
 

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