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College welcomes "wonderfully generous" bequest from Hon Fellow

  • 05 January 2017

The late Patricia Crone, Honorary Fellow of Caius and a renowned Orientalist specialising in early Islamic history, has bequeathed the College over £2.8 million – the largest cash legacy in its history.

Professor Crone, who died aged 70 on 11 July 2015, made a significant impact at Caius thanks to her warmth, liveliness and bold scholarly mind. A Fellow of Caius from 1990-97 and elected to an Honorary Fellowship in 2012, she was a frequent visitor to the College she loved, continuing to attend even when terminally ill with cancer.

Her exceptionally generous gift will help secure the College’s educational mission, allowing Caius to continue to support the learning of future generations of students.

Born in Roskilde, Denmark, Prof Crone studied in Paris and London, before moving on to teach at Oxford and then Cambridge. Joining Caius as a Research Fellow, she was University Lecturer in Islamic Studies from 1992-94 and Reader in Islamic History from 1994 until 1997, when she was appointed Andrew W. Mellon Professor at Princeton.

A key theme in her academic life was the interrogation of the historical authenticity of Islamic sources concerning the beginnings of Islam. Her two best-known works - Hagarism and Meccan Trade – focus on this subject.

The Master of Caius, Professor Sir Alan Fersht, paid tribute to Prof Crone and the generosity of her bequest. “We remember Patricia Crone well as a lively Fellow and most interesting company. Patricia dined and lunched regularly in the College and was very much part of our community. A determined lady, she had very much her own mind. We elected her as an Honorary Fellow, which is a rare distinction, after she had been awarded the rare accolade of being made an Affiliated Fellow of the British Academy.

“Despite being terminally ill and requiring help to move around, she was determined to come to Caius for a Perse Feast, against all medical advice to be contrary. Her love of the College was further evidenced by a magnificent bequest and we will seek to honour her.”

Dr David Secher, Senior Bursar, said: "I remember Patricia with great fondness. She was a brilliant scholar, an intrepid traveller and a warm person. Her wonderfully generous legacy reflects her love for Caius and will be used to further the College's educational aims, so that future students and scholars at Caius can benefit, as Patricia did, from its unique environment."

An obituary of Prof Crone in the Economist reflected her distinctive mix of warmth combined with scholarly heft and courage, noting that her “erudition was intimidatingly displayed in scores of articles and books. But in person she was fun and unassuming, with a love of cycling and distaste for hierarchy that showed her Danish origins. She made puppet theatres for children, held spectacular New Year parties for her friends, delighted to dance polkas and Strauss waltzes, and at Princeton, New Jersey, where she worked at the Institute for Advanced Study after 1997, assiduously tended both her own garden and a neighbour’s.”

Prof Crone was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2011. Refusing whole-brain radiation lest it affect her faculties, she investigated instead the benefits of medical marijuana – challenging the US authorities whose restrictive prohibitionist laws she believed hindered research.

Thank you to Prof Crone's family for the use of the photograph above, taken by her sister Clarissa.


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