The international legal community has lost one of its most distinguished members. John Gunther Fleming, the Cecil Shannon Turner Professor of Law Emeritus at Boalt Hall, is dead at 77 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease).
Fleming was best known for his pathbreaking treatise, "The Law of Torts" (1957), upon which generations of law students, professors and judges throughout the Anglo-American legal system have depended.
This unique volume weaves together analysis of legal developments in Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States. Just prior to his death, Fleming completed the book's ninth edition.
Born in Berlin in 1919, Fleming earned his BA in jurisprudence from Brasenose College, Oxford University in 1941, his doctorate of philosophy from Oxford in 1948 and his law degree in 1959 from the same institution.
In the intervening years, from 1941 to 1945, he performed distinguished military service in the British Royal Tank Corps in North Africa and Italy.
In 1949 Fleming emigrated with his young family to Canberra, Australia for a position at Canberra University. In 1956 he became the founding father and dean of the law school at the Australian National University.
He joined the faculty at Boalt Hall in 1960, where he remained until his death.
Between 1972 and 1987, Fleming was editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Comparative Law, establishing that journal as the leading publication in the field, and was active in a number of leading professional organizations.
Although his scholarly base remained at Berkeley until the end of his life, Fleming's international reputation led to visiting professorships at the universities of Singapore, Michigan and Witwatersrand (South Africa), as well as countless lectureships throughout the world.
Besides his major opus, Fleming published two other books, "The American Tort Process" and "Introduction to the Law of Torts," and more than a hundred shorter pieces.
His persistent attention to the ways that various nations solve their legal problems has left a lasting mark on today's academics and lawyers in the United States, the European Union and in the Commonwealth nations.
An enthusiastic sailor, Fleming was a member of the Richmond Yacht Club, a voracious reader and a collector of 19th century French paperweights and other glass.
Fleming is survived by his wife, Valerie, of 51 years; his four children, Anthony, Barbara, Colin and Stephen; and five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at the School of Law Oct. 3.