Copyright 1999 The Chronicle Publishing Co.
The San Francisco Chronicle


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HEADLINE: David Daube


BODY: David Daube, a world renowned biblical law scholar who taught generations of students at the University of California at Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, died February 24 of pneumonia.

Professor Daube died in a Pleasant Hill nursing home. He was 90.

"David was one of the greatest legal scholars in the world, and that is no exaggeration," said Robert Cole, a professor emeritus of law at UC Berkeley.

Professor Daube was born in Freiburg, Germany, to Orthodox Jewish parents. In 1933, knowing German, French, Latin, ancient Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic but not English, he left for England to escape from the Nazis.

He earned degrees from the University of Freiburg and the University of Gottingen in 1932. In 1936, he received a doctorate from Cambridge University and, in 1955, a master's degree from Oxford University.

From 1955 to 1970, Professor Daube was a fellow at All Souls College at Oxford. He was made Regius professor of Civil Law at Oxford, a royal appointment.

Professor Daube became a visiting professor at UC Berkeley in the 1960s, joining the faculty in 1970. During a newspaper interview in 1986, one law student described Professor Daube's lectures this way:

"One of his key themes is that the ancients were as much sneaky liars, losers, failures, successes, generous, grandiose, colorful people as we are today."

Professor Daube produced dozens of books and published more than 150 articles in scholarly journals. His work ranged from such matters as the origins of detective novels, which he traced to ancient times, to wine in the Bible.

From 1974 to 1993, four collections of essays by scholars were published in his honor.

At one point, every academic faculty chair in Roman law and ancient history in Great Britain was held by one of his former students.

In addition to UC Berkeley, Professor Daube taught at Cambridge, Yale University, Catholic University in Washington, D.C., the University of Edinburgh and the University of Aberdeen, both in Scotland, and the University of Konstanz in Germany.

Professor Daube retired in 1994.

Professor Daube's circle of friends was vast, ranging from international scholars to homeless people in North Beach and local bus drivers and passengers on the 5:30 a.m. F bus from San Francisco to Berkeley.

Professor Daube is survived by his wife, Helen Margolis Smelser Daube; and his children from a previous marriage: Jonathan Maharam Daube of Manchester, Conn.; Benjamin Daube of Toronto; and Michael Daube of Perth, Australia. He also is survived by stepchildren from his marriage to Helen -- Tina Smelser and Eric Smelser of San Francisco -- and six grandchildren.

Professor Daube was buried at the Orthodox Jewish Cemetery in Oakland. The law school is planning a memorial service for April.