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Tributes and Biography:
The papyrological community is mourning one of its most outstanding members. After a long illness, Dr. William Brashear passed away on February 2nd, 2000, in Spencer, N. Y. He had been Chief Papyrologist at the Egyptian Museum in Charlottenburg, Berlin, for thirty years.
His personal charisma, his vitality and intellectual curiosity that helped him grasp command of no less than 26 languages, ancient and modern, his broad smile and roaring laugh will be remembered and painfully missed not only by his beloved family, but also by the host of his friends throughout the world.
He was born in Ithaca, New York, and graduated from Newfield High School. He was a graduate of Oberlin College, where he played the French horn, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
On several occasions Dr. Brashear was invited as a visiting professor in Classics by the Chinese government. His friends will re-member the long passionate descriptions of China he was dispatching during his long stays there, as well as his enthusiasm and diligence in studying various Chinese dialects. He was a member of the American Society of Papyrologists and the Association International de Papyrologues.
His major publications were:
Farewell Bill. I hope you'll find in your celestial abode the warmth you were seeking for in your whole life.
Tyche: Beitrage zur Alten Geschichte - Papyrologie und Epigraphik
Papyrologists of the last quarter of the 20th century will forever connect West Berlin with the name of Bill Brashear. They knew that through him they had an institution, a personality, who with very little means created a tremendous work. Who would have under such difficult conditions where famous names and performances dotted the Berlin collections 'connected circumstances where none from the service provided computer but only Bill's machine knew?! Which inevitable reparations had to be carried out but by Bill himself? As e-mail communication long belonged to daily routine, Bill talked about the Papyrus collection and his "black hole" vision at the Papyrologist congress in Florence in 1998. The circumstances are to be described as difficult during all his years in Berlin. Not only the very strict separation between east and west was a bitter life experience but also the fall of the wall kept the two institutions separate in "Museumsinsel" and Charlottenburg. Inventories and libraries stayed separate. Often he jumped onto his bicycle to ride to Bodestrasse to check an original or a book. His all-open personality suffered from this isolation also in the open West Berlin. One felt his pleasure when visiting him. The next moment one became his co-worker, had access to everything and was often his unconditional colleague. Like anyone who stands alone in his field, but sees his goal to bring things ahead, he knew that keeping papyrus under lock would not only prevent new knowledge but also hurt Science as a community work. He acted accordingly and opened Charlottenburg 24 hours a day to whom ever wanted to study papyrus. He never hid the fact that he knew the contrary quite well and suffered from it, because it diametrically opposed his own person. His high talent and his unusual level as a scientist showed in all his works. BGU XIV and BGU XVI identify him as an excellent connoisseur of documented papyrus. With these 2 volumes, he gave Berlin a significant start signal for a great research field in the Berlin papyrology: The preparation of the mummy cardboard box (?). At the same time he also acknowledged his setback with regards to a second work relative to the conservation and systematic review of the tin boxes - what section of moving scientific history do they tell - which will not see an end for a long time.
But not only documents were his field but also literature. Proof for it are not only the numerous essays but also both "small monographies" - A Mithraic Catechism From Egypt (Vienna 1992, 70p., Tyche Suppl. 1) and his last publication Wednesday's Child is Full of Woe, or: The Seven Deadly Sins and some More too! Another Apotelesmatikon: P. Mev. Inv. 71. 58 (Vienna 1998, 117p., Nilus 1). Both booklets show Bill Brashear as excellent connoisseur of antic religion and magic. It's not likely that anyone else collected as much literature in these fields (and left many readers desperate in view of the literary citations in his works). His contribution in the ANRW (The Greek Magical Papyri: an Introduction and Survey. Annotated Bibliography (1928-1994). ANRW I: Principat, 18.5, Berlin, New York 1995, 3382-3684) is the clearest proof of it.
A merciless illness, which he suspected he contracted during his second stay in China, took him suddenly away from us at the age of 53. Probably only few knew his hopeless suffering. And even in this part of his life, he did not want to give himself vanquished. Many colleagues will remember his moody presentation at the already cited congress in Florence in 1998 relative to the poor situation in Berlin. But hardly anyone noticed at that time his already dramatic condition. Only few could suspect that he was also talking about his own constitution.
Brashear's performance for the papyrus collection in Berlin, the papyrology and for the antic science as a whole stays alone as a monument and as an obligation for all who will follow after him.
Oberlin Alumni Magazine
Noted papyrologist spent career in Berlin: William
Brashear '68 1947 - 2000